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Walter Yasuo Oi

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Oi, Walter Yasuo

Pittsford: December 24, 2013 at age 84. Predeceased by his parents, Matsunosuke and Toshiko Oi and his brother Sammy Junsuke Oi (Evelyn Muranaga). Walter is survived by his wife of 44 years, Marjorie Robbins, his two daughters Jessica (Kevin Leclaire) and Eleanor (Jeff Wigal), his sister, Mary T. Oi, as well as his three grandchildren Victoria, Sebastian and Connor.

Walter Oi was born on July 1, 1929 in Los Angeles California. His parents immigrated from Kochi-ken, Japan in the early 1900's. During World War II, Walter spent three years in internment camps for Japanese Americans at Santa Anita Racetrack and Camp Amache in Granada, CO. The family returned to Los Angeles after the War. He received a BA in Business and Mathematics '52 and an MA in Economics '54 from UCLA. He earned a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1961. He gradually lost his sight throughout childhood and became completely blind in 1956.

Walter taught and researched economic topics beginning with his first appointment at Iowa State College in 1957. He held positions at Northwestern University, the University of Washington and since 1967 at the University of Rochester. He was a Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Management (now Simon School) from 1967 to 1975. He then moved to the Department of Economics and served as Professor of Economics until his retirement in 2008. He was appointed the Elmer B. Milliman Professor of Economics in1978 and served as Department Chair from 1976 to 1982. Some of his many honors included being named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a distinguished fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, a distinguished Fellow of the American Economics Association, and a recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. He also received the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Rochester, NY.

Walter was the author of one of the principal studies on the economics of the military draft and later served as Staff Economist to President Nixon's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force in the early 1970s. His research was used as a key piece of evidence in the debate to end the draft. Walter was widely cited for his seminal research in economics. He had extensive publications in Labor, Defense Analysis, Transportation, Industrial Organization and Employment for People with Disabilities.

Walter was also known for his stories and his ability to find arcane and unusual facts. There are many stories about him and his series of guide dogs: Genie, Karl, Gail, Blondie, and Rosellen. In addition to his academic success, he was an incredibly devoted father and husband who never missed a minor or major event that involved his children.

Services will be pending. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., P.O. Box 3950 San Rafael, CA 94912-3950, the University of Rochester, Office of Gift and Donor Records, 300 East River Road, P.O. Box 270032, Rochester, NY 14627, or a . To share a memory of Walter or send a condolence to the family, visit


Published in Rochester Democrat And Chronicle on Dec. 29, 2013
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