Robert Dewitt Tollison
Dr. Robert Dewitt Tollison, 73, passed away peacefully in Clemson, South Carolina on October 24, 2016. He was the J. Wilson Newman Professor of Economics at Clemson University where he had served since 2003. Bob had previously been on the faculty at Cornell, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, George Mason, and the University of Mississippi.
A native of South Carolina, Bob grew up in Spartanburg, the son of and Howard and Georgia Tollison, and he took great pride in their simple, humble, yet wonderful life there. Bob graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wofford College, and received his Masters’ from the University of Alabama. He got his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Virginia studying under Nobel Laureate and close friend James Buchanan. He served in the Nixon and Reagan Administrations in many roles including Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisors and then later as Director of the Bureau of Economics of the Federal Trade Commission. He was a Past-President of the Southern Economic Association and the Public Choice Society. Dr. Tollison was asked to testify before Congress on many occasions.
Dr. Tollison never met a student or crossword puzzle he didn’t love or embrace. His academic work was transcendent and voluminous. His principles of economics textbook with his close friend Bob Ekelund educated and influenced generations of college students. Of late, his work on the economics of religion is receiving the highest acclaim. His capacity to engage and mentor graduate students is legendary having signed more than 150 PhD dissertations and Masters theses. Scholars in many fields of public economics, sports and economics, antitrust economics, and many others depend on his insights and influence. Bob saw economics in action almost everywhere. At a recent dinner of colleagues, he spoke of the “squirrel economy,” citing data on the rate of savings by squirrels and the implied interest rate they used to determine whether to eat nuts now or save them. A rare and daunting intellect, a great teacher, and yet a simple and humble man who refused to look down on anyone who dared to try and learn.
As Professor, he believed in hard work, writing, writing some more, and then writing again, but it always had to be fun too. He wore a smile that never went away. Bob loved sports, was a huge Clemson fan, even when he was a cameraman at WSPA for the Verner Tate, Coach Frank Howard Show. He was also an active sports participant. He had a 3-point shot that couldn’t be blocked and a tennis return that drove his opponents crazy. He collected golf balls as if the game was coming to an end, and his nearly perfect memory meant you were almost sure to lose any bet about a sporting fact from the past.
Bob is survived by his wife and love of the best part of five decades, Anna; a daughter, April Kleinfeldt and her husband Rich of Clemson, and son Mark Tollison and his wife Sarah Jane of Greenville; brothers Benjamin Tollison of Alpharetta, Georgia and David Tollison of Ridgeway, Virginia. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Zachariah Tollison, Katie Tollison, and Annabel Kleinfeldt.
Funeral services will be 2 pm, Friday, October 28 at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church, Clemson, South Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, memorials maybe made to Oconee County Humane Society, P O Box 966, West Union, SC 29696 or through their website at www.oconeehumane.org/donate.php. Liberty Mortuary is handling arrangements.