Eli Ginzberg, Economist, Advised Eight Presidents

Eli Ginzberg, 91, an economist who taught at Columbia University for more than six decades, advised eight American presidents and led pioneering research in employment and health care, died on Saturday, Dec. 14, at his home in Manhattan. He was a 48-year summer resident of Chilmark and was a familiar figure up-Island.

Dr. Ginzberg first showed his bent for applied economics during World War II, when he moved from his home in New York to Washington and served the federal government in a variety of positions. He built on that experience for decades, supervising studies designed to reduce the waste of manpower, publishing many books and articles and later advising governments and corporations.

"What Eli had was an enormous command of the facts and a remarkably down-to-earth practical sense of what was possible, politically and economically," said Robert M. Solow, a fellow economist and Island summer resident, in an interview with The New York Times. "He was sort of the guardian of common sense in the areas of manpower problems and health care."

He served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a consultant on military personnel during the war, and also worked in the government's hospital division and the surgeon general's office in the War Department, where he coordinated medical preparations for the D-Day invasion of France in 1944.

After the war, he returned to teaching and served as director of staff studies at the National Manpower Council. He wrote about the importance of integrating women and racial minorities into the labor force, and played a role in the desegregation of the United States Army as an aide to Secretary of the Army Frank Pace Jr. in the 1950s.

He was born on April 30, 1911, to Louis and Adele Ginzberg in New York city. His father, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, was one of the foremost Talmudic scholars of the 20th century. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and Columbia University, where he stayed to earn his doctorate in economics in 1934 and joined the faculty in 1935. That year he completed a yearlong tour of the 40 American states, applying his observations as the basis for a set of recommendations on reforming the American regulatory and monetary systems, published in 1939 in his book, The Illusion of Economic Stability.

After the war, he was appointed by President Truman to represent the United States at a conference on victims of German actions who could not be repatriated. He also served as an advisor to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became president of Columbia in 1948. Dr. Ginzberg continued to advise state and federal governments on health issues and advised presidents through Jimmy Carter. He also contributed many books on subjects like the supply of doctors and managed care, which he viewed skeptically. Many of those books were written on the Island, under a tree, using his favorite writing tools, a pen and yellow legal pads.

On the Island, Dr. Ginzberg was an active member of the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center. He and his family rented the Weckman property on North Road for many years. More recently he rented on the Alley property across from Lucy Vincent Beach, where he could be seen every day walking to the pond for his swim.

He was also known for the cars he drove around the Island. His 1968 green Impala convertible was a signature vehicle for almost 30 years.

He was married to Ruth Szold in 1946. She died in 1995. They are both interred in Vineyard Haven. He is survived by his three children, Abigail, Jeremy and Rachel, and by three grandchildren.

An annual memorial prize fund is being established in his memory at the Columbia School of Business. Donations can be made to Columbia University, with Eli Ginzberg Memorial Prize Fund in the memo line, and sent to Office of the Dean, Columbia University School of Business, 3022 Broadway - 101 Uris Hall, New York, NY 10027.