In Memoriam: Richard N. Cooper 1934-2020

December 23, 2020
Richard N. Cooper

The Economics Department has been saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Richard N. Cooper, Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics on December 23rd.  He was a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Executive Panel of the US Chief of Naval Operations, and the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity. 

He served on several occasions in the US Government, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (1995-97), Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1977-81), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Monetary Affairs (1965-66), and senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers (1961-63).  He was also chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (1990-92), and Vice-Chairman of the Global Development Network (2001-2007).  

Recording of Richard N. Cooper Tribute Event May 15th, 2021

Statements of remembrance from friends, colleagues, and students:

I first met Dick Cooper when I was passing through Jakarta in 1970. He was working that summer with the Harvard Development Advisory Service (later HIID) and was a professor of economics at Yale. Eight or nine years later when I was Chairman of the Harvard Economics Department (January 1977-June 30, 1980) the Center for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Center) offered the Department a chair in international economics with an emphasis on international economic policy I thought Dick would be an ideal candidate for the position and the senior members of the Department agreed. I went down to Washington to see Dick who was serving as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs during the Carter administration and he readily agreed to return to Harvard where he had obtained his PhD.

Dick among many other things was an inveterate conference attender. I have probably attended at least a dozen conferences over the years where he was also a participant including at least two in China. He was invited to so many because he was an excellent economist with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the who, what, and why of a myriad of international economic negotiations, treaties, etc. In his later years after marrying Jin Chen his interest in China increased (it was there from early on—we both attended a Brookings-Chinese Academy of Social Sciences conference in Beijing around 1981 for example). In recent years I saw more of him on a regular basis as a result. I will miss our many conversations over the years very much.  - Dwight Perkins


Dick was an incredibly multifaceted individual with a remarkable career in academia and government. He was an integral member of our International Economics group at Harvard, and actively participated in our activities, even in the last weeks of his life. In workshops, Dick always asked tough questions, displaying an incredible amount of knowledge, as well as strong but informed opinions. He was very vocal about things he didn’t like or didn’t think were important. In my personal interactions with him, I was always encouraged and uplifted by the respect I felt he had for my work, even if it wasn’t necessarily the type of research he would be doing. Overall, Dick’s career demonstrates that you can do research and be engaged in policy as an economist, and find the combination fruitful and productive. - Pol Antras



From the media:

In Memory of Richard Cooper by Jeffrey Frankel 

Econbrowser, December 24th 2020

The Harvard Gazette, January 7, 2021

Full testimonials:

Jin C. Cooper

President James Carter

Koichi Hamada