PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — George Herbert Borts, whose 63-year teaching and research career at Brown made him a mentor to generations of students in the Department of Economics, died Friday, May 2, 2014, in Providence. Borts was 86.
“George Borts was a singular presence on the University faculty,” said Brown President Christina Paxson in a message to the community. “Generations of Brown students, whether economics concentrators or not, discovered the creative intellectual applications of the field through his classes, and a long list of doctoral students prospered under his mentorship. He encouraged doctoral candidates as well as entering freshmen, and he led discussions of complex ideas in ways that were clear and engaging for undergraduate seminars and senior colleagues alike.”
Borts was born in New York City Aug. 29, 1927. At Columbia University (A.B., 1947, economics and history, Phi Beta Kappa), he recognized his early interest in economics and chose to pursue graduate studies. He attended the University of Chicago, where he studied with Milton Friedman (A.M., 1949; Ph.D., 1953). His thesis, Cost and Production Relations in the Railway Industry, suggested a lifelong professional and academic interest in the economics of transportation.
In 1950 Borts joined the faculty of Brown University as an assistant professor of economics. Aside from a one-year appointment as a statistics instructor at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1948-49), Borts would remain a faculty member at Brown for his entire career. He moved steadily through the professorial ranks (associate, 1955; professor, 1960), was department chair in the mid-1960s, and served a term as managing editor of the Brown University World Business Advisory (1990-91).
In the academic world beyond Brown, he held a variety of appointments, including as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, twice as a visiting research fellow at the London School of Economics, and as a visiting professor of economics at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. He was managing editor of the American Economic Review, a publication of the American Economic Association, for more than a decade (1969-80). He held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Ford Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation and was an honorary life member of the American Economic Association.