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David Bradford, 'Gracious and Kind,' Remembered at Richardson Service

Matthew Hersh

When David Bradford, a family man, neighbor, and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, died on February 22 from injuries incurred while trying to escape from a house fire two weeks earlier, the community immediately responded.

There was an outpouring of support for his family, his life and career were memorialized at the University, and a campaign was launched to give his name to a small park on his native Pine Street. That proposal for the memorial park is being weighed by Borough Council.

Park or no park, if the crowd of approximately 450 at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall last Friday was any indication of what Mr. Bradford, who was 66, meant to the surrounding community, he has already left an indelible legacy.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, mentioned his two stints as acting dean, two as associate dean and director of the graduate program. Ms. Slaughter spoke of him as "gracious and kind, unfailingly considerate and careful, and deeply deliberative.

"There are many things that he had on his plate, many things that he would have liked to do ‹ I think it's fair to say, that he would have rather done ‹ but he came to help, as he always did when you asked him for help," Ms. Slaughter said. "He was loved throughout the school and the University."

That sentiment at the University is two-pronged, the dean added. Mr. Bradford was admired not only for his way of dealing with colleagues and students, but for the long list of contributions he compiled during his nearly four decades at the University. Most recently, Mr. Bradford was devoted to building the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program (STEP). At the time of his death he was the leader and "guiding spirit" behind the STEP weekly seminars, which, Ms. Slaughter announced, would be renamed the David Bradford Seminars in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy.

Alan Blinder, co-director of the University's Center for Economic Policy Studies, remembered his colleague as a "treasured member of the faculty.

"The loss that all of us are feeling here today is not just scholarly, but very personal," he said, painting a picture of the "warm, but wry smile" that was characteristic of Mr. Bradford ‹ even when he was arguing for his favorite tax plan, or against yours, Mr. Blinder added.

"David truly believed in the competition of ideas, but for him, that meant good-natured, well-mannered, truth-seeking competition, not scoring points, not going for the jugular."

While Mr. Bradford accomplished a myriad of achievements in his 39 years at the University, it was when he was still a young professor who had just received tenure that he published what is his most cited paper, "Optimal Departures from Marginal Cost Pricing." Co-authored with William J. Baumol and published in the American Economic Review in 1970, the paper has been absorbed "so thoroughly into the corpus of the discipline, that formal citations are often omitted," Mr. Blinder said.

In his later years, Mr. Bradford's energies were focused on environmental policy. He was "especially engaged," Mr. Blinder said, in studying possible policy responses to the challenge posed by global climate change ‹ an interest acquired when he was a member of the Council on Economic Advisors in the early 1990s.

Mr. Bradford's children, Theodore and Lulu, offered a personal look at a man who has left, according to Mr. Blinder, "his intellectual fingerprints all over" the blueprint for tax reform.

"He was a brilliant thinker and a dedicated member of the University," said his daughter Lulu, who spoke with her brother, Theodore. "To us, he was our gentle and loving dad."

Mr. Bradford is survived by his two children, his wife Gundel, a sister, and four grandchildren.

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