William Breit

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BREIT
Dr. William Breit, age 78 of San Antonio, died Thursday, August 25, 2011. Economist, scholar, author, teacher, raconteur extraordinaire, Breit's teaching career spanned more than four decades. His legacy is his inspiration to students encountered at such prestigious campuses as The University of Virginia, Trinity University, Stanford University and Louisiana State University. His students have gone on to prominent positions within Presidential Administrations, The Federal Reserve System and The Food and Drug Administration. Still others are CEO's of corporations, while some practice law and hold Federal Judgeships. All trace their inspiration back to the beloved Dr. Breit. Breit's last teaching position was more than two decades as the E. M. Stevens Distinguished Professor of Economics at Trinity University in San Antonio. When Breit arrived on the Trinity campus in the early 1980's, he was charged by then President Ronald Calgaard with "putting the Trinity Economics Department on the map." Breit thought about this and came up with the idea to create a lecture series, a lecture series that would grow to become among the most prominent in the country. Breit conceived the idea of inviting each year a person who had won the Nobel Prize in Economics to give a lecture at Trinity. The first participants included such notables as Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman. At first, the laureates were skeptical of Breit's request. Breit did not want them to come and talk about economic theory. He insisted the lecture be auto-biographical in nature, touching on what inspired the laureate to study economics. Breit then compiled the lectures in a book titled "Lives of the Laureates." Published by MIT Press, that book has been translated into languages around the world and is in its fifth edition. The lecture series has enjoyed more than a quarter-century of success and laureates now eagerly await the invitation as part of their prize. Breit certainly lived up to his initial charge from Trinity! Breit led a double life. From childhood he was fascinated with crime stories, especially a murder mystery. Along with co-author Kenneth Elzinga, Breit penned three murder mysteries using economic theories to solve "whodunits." Under the pseudonym Marshall Jevons, their novels "Murder at the Margin," "The Fatal Equilibrium," and "A Deadly Indifference" have been translated around the globe and have appeared on the reading lists of more than 400 college economics courses. Breit and Elzinga also published books on economics dealing with the need to revise the federal anti-trust laws. Their recommendations were enacted into law. Breit's scholarly work brought him the honor of lifetime membership in The Mont Pelerin Society. Founded After World War II, in 1947, when many of the values of Western civilization were imperiled, 36 scholars, mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers, were invited by Professor Friedrich von Hayek to meet at Mont Pelerin, near Montreux, Switzerland, to discuss the state and the possible fate of liberalism (in its classical sense) in thinking and practice. Its sole objective was to facilitate an exchange of ideas between like-minded scholars in the hope of strengthening the principles and practice of a free society and to study the workings, virtues, and defects of market-oriented economic systems. Members include high government officials, Nobel Prize recipients, journalists, economic and financial experts, and legal scholars from all over the world. Breit contributed to their meetings around the world, traveling to faraway locales such as Iceland, Moscow, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A connoisseur of food, Breit often planned travel around the culinary offerings of a given locale. Appreciation of fine food was a staple of his upbringing. His cousin Mimi Sheraton went on to become the famed food critic for The New York Times while Breit was a partner in San Antonio's storied restaurant and club, The Red Carpet. Ocean liners were the subject of yet another passionate interest. One of Breit's novels is set aboard the QE2. Research for the book required several Transatlantic crossings. When Cunard introduced the new Queen Mary 2, Breit knew he had to be on the maiden voyage. He continued as a passenger on the on the Queen Mary 2's historic New York to Southampton crossing alongside the QE2, symbolizing the QE2's handoff of the route to the new flagship of the fleet. Breit once celebrated his birthday on the Queen Mary 2's maiden call to the exotic South Pacific port of Pago Pago. Breit was a student at Jefferson High School, San Antonio College, University of Texas at Austin, and Michigan State University. All have honored him as a distinguished alumnus. Always smiling, knowing no enemies, inspired by the successes of those he taught, William Breit passed peacefully in his San Antonio home on August 25th after a long and difficult battle with a degenerative brain disease. He is survived by his brother, Alvin Breit and sister-in-law Phyllis Breit, Cousins Madeline Goldfein, Rita Berman, Maurice Auerbach, Michael Levine, Harold Levine, close friend and companion Edward Alanis, a niece and a nephew.

GRAVESIDE SERVICE WAS HELD
FRIDAY
AUGUST 26, 2011
9:00 A.M.
AGUDAS ACHIM
MEMORIAL GARDENS
1727 AUSTIN HIGHWAY

Memorial contributions may be made to The Humane Society 4804 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, TX 78229 or The Walter Adams Prize for Excellence in Economics, c/o Trinity University 715 Stadium Drive, San Antonio, TX 78212.

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Published in Express-News on Aug. 28, 2011
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