Bob Evenson died on February 2, 2013. Bob was one of three main mentors in my career, and probably the most influential, even though I never took a course from him. Writing a paper with him amounted to a full-scale seminar.
I first met Bob in 1976 in Los Banos, Philippines, where he was an Agricultural Development Council associate and visiting professor at the University of the Philippines and I was the greenest of green PhD students sitting in a cubicle at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) doing the field research for my dissertation from the University of Michigan. Bob was already an established scholar, but he treated me with dignity and respect (and probably mild amusement at some of my questions).
Gentle (but rigorous!) mentorship was Bob’s hallmark; he was a great teacher and adviser to hundreds of students at Yale, many of whom have gone on to highly successful careers. Bob was a leading scholar in many areas of research related to agricultural research, economic development, and education.
Coming from a farming background himself, Bob’s passion was improving the well-being of poor farmers in developing countries, and his research was filled with insights on how to do this. His work on the determinants of agricultural productivity research and the economic returns to agricultural research was pioneering, and remained a core interest throughout his career. It was my good fortune to work with him on these issues in the late 1980s and 1990s and into the 2000s, a period during which I learned a tremendous amount. Even when I wasn’t working with Bob, I could always call him up for help when facing a difficult research issues.
Bob’s patented long and rambling answers were seminars in themselves, but invariably ended up helping me through the problem. Bob was a great friend to IFPRI and to CGIAR, but was also a sharp and constructive critic when he believed it necessary. I have lost a great friend and mentor, and the world of research and agricultural development has lost a champion.