Friday, January 22, 2016

Remembering Leroy Laney

By Ken Schoolland, Associate Professor of Economics

Retired HPU Professor of Economics and Finance
Leroy Laney, Ph.D., died on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016

Leroy Laney was the person I considered the most esteemed scholar at Hawaii Pacific University. Leroy was Senior Economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, taught at eight universities over his career, and served for many years as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for First Hawaiian Bank. 

In his capacity at the bank, he hosted the Bank's annual Economic Outlook Forum on the neighbor islands and, in recent years, at the Neal Blaisdell Center before an audience of nearly 500 business and community leaders. Luminaries from the mainland were always invited to give their take on national and global economic issues of the day, but it was really Leroy everyone came to hear. 

Leroy was clear, insightful, and always instructive about our home state. His graphic presentations and multidimensional perspective were easy to grasp and stuck with us. Leroy explained to us what was going on, what caused it, and where we were headed. He took his lessons island hopping to Hawaii’s major islands and surveyed conditions as far away as Guam, the Northern Marianas, and the Pacific Northwest. Wise decision making throughout the Pacific owed much to his analysis and instruction before the grand classroom. 

Colleague Jack Karbens reminisced, “As a professor in Hawaii since the 70’s, I read his First Hawaiian Bank Economics letters religiously and attended some of his first class presentations regarding the status of the economy. He was highly regarded by all who knew him as a gentleman and a scholar. I was honored to serve with him since he joined our faculty. He was always open to discussion of many subjects. He was a valued fellow member of our committees.”  Finance Professor, Bei Zeng, remembered him warmly for many conversations they had on research topics. “He was so good at that.”

One student, Moe Sy, observed, “I really enjoyed his way of challenging me. When I look back over my college years, he is the one I most enjoyed having in depth economics discussions with. He relished the controversies.” An international student from Finland, Rebecca Ristikangas, said, “He was super smart. And he always made sense.”

Foily Wittayanont, a student from Thailand, expressed great sorrow at the news saying, “He made me realize that I can do and be anything. I never thought that I could ever understand economics at a deeper level until Dr. Laney showed me that I could. He was one of the best and most inspiring teachers I've ever had.”

Speaking of his collaboration with Leroy, Jack Suyderhoud, Professor of Economics at UH-Manoa said, “Leroy and I worked together for many years on the State Council of Revenues and First Hawaiian Bank's business outlook forums. Leroy was a fine macroeconomist who leveraged his Federal Reserve Bank experience to help us better understand monetary policies and its limitations. Leroy was also able to extend his analytical skills to more micro and Hawaii-specific issues. His work for First Hawaiian Bank featured in-depth understanding of what was happening in all of Hawaii’s counties and went beyond the normal statistical sources that we economists normally rely on. Leroy was not afraid to contribute his insights to the public discourse on important issues, whether it was the Jones Act or rail transit. His voice of reason will be missed.”

Indeed, Leroy was a good friend and a stellar professional. Whether at a community social, in his office, or at home, it was always a pleasure to visit. We will all miss his wise presence. A memorial will be held for Leroy 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Waikiki Yacht Club, February 13.

Star-Advertiser business section tribute article here (subscription required) and obituary here.

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