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Vol. LXIV, No. 21
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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John Prior Lewis

John Prior Lewis

John Prior Lewis, 89, of Skillman, an economist, educator, and diplomat, died May 18 at Stonebridge in Montgomery.

Born in Albany, N.Y., to Leon Ray and Grace Prior Lewis, he was a native of Hudson Falls, N.Y., where he graduated as high school valedictorian. He enrolled at Union College in Schenectady on scholarship, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in 1941. His numerous prizes and honors at Union included a year of study abroad at St. Andrews University in Scotland (1939-40) as well as the Bailey Cup, Union’s most prestigious prize, awarded annually to the student who has rendered the greatest service to the college in any field. From Union he went on to Harvard, where he earned an MS of public administration in 1943 and a Ph.D. in political economy and government in 1950. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of civil law by Union College in 1970.

He served from 1943 to 1946 as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Pacific Theater of Operations. He married June Estelle Ryan in July 1946, only a few months after they’d met in San Francisco during World War II.

Dr. Lewis taught as an assistant professor of economics and government at Union from 1946 to 1950, then went on to his first stint in public service from 1950 to 1953 as assistant to the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Executive Office of President Truman. After consulting for several months with the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency in Pusan, Korea, in 1953, he accepted a job as Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at Indiana University. He was made a full professor in 1956, and not long afterwards was promoted to distinguished service professor.In 1961 he became chairman of the department, a position he held until 1963. During his tenure at Indiana, he took several leaves of absence to pursue other opportunities. His fascination with development economics, and his love affair with India, began in the late ’50s when the Brookings Institution accepted a book proposal that took Prof. Lewis and his family to India for the first time in 1959. Prof. Lewis became a member of President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisors in 1963. With his family he returned to India late the following year, when President Johnson appointed him Minister-Director, USAID mission to India. He returned to academia in 1969 as Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University. He served as Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School from 1969 to 1974 and continued as a member of the faculty until 1991, when he became Professor Emeritus.

Professor Lewis took various leaves from Princeton, including from 1979 to 1981 as Chairman, Development Assistance Committee, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. He also served as a senior advisor to the Oversees Development Council from 1981 to 1999, and as a member of the UN Committee on Development Planning from 1970 to 1983 and rapporteur from 1972 to 1978.

A prolific author, Prof. Lewis’s many books included Business Conditions Analysis in 1959 and 1967, Quiet Crisis in India: Economic Development and American Policy in 1962, US Foreign Policy and the Third World in 1983, India’s Political Economy in 1995, The World Bank: Its First Half Century (with Devesh Kapur and Richard Webb) in 1997, and The Goliath Problem: The Wages of Hegemony in 2004.

Predeceased by his wife, June, and a daughter, Amanda Barnum, he is survived by two daughters, Betsy Prior and Sally Eastman; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A private funeral and burial service will be held for the immediate family. A memorial service open to the public will be held at Prospect House at Princeton University on Sunday, June 27 at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Pratham, the largest non-government organization working to provide quality education to the underprivileged children of India, at

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