Remembering Richard Adams

Richard Adams joined the OSU faculty in 1983 as Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (currently Applied Economics). He retired in 2006 and was appointed Professor Emeritus.  Rich received his PhD from UC Davis in 1975 and was a faculty member (Assistant-Associate Professor) at the University of Wyoming, in the Division of Agricultural Economics, from 1975 until 1983. CV   

Rich’s academic positions always included teaching and research responsibilities.  His teaching focused on undergraduate and graduate courses in resource and environmental economics, applied welfare analysis, agricultural development, production economics, mathematical programming, and research methods. While at OSU, he directed and served as major advisor to 27 Masters and PhD students, served as a committee member/minor professor on 48 MS and PhD committees within the AREc department, and supervised many undergraduates involved in research projects.  Between 1984 and 2006, nearly 40 percent of all graduate students in the department benefited from Rich’s experience and mentorship.    

Rich was known for his scholarship on the economic effects of air and water pollution, the implications of climate change for agriculture and water resources, and the tradeoffs between agricultural activity and environmental quality.  Rich was one of the very first scholars to examine in a serious way how climate change – just an emerging concept back in the 1980s – would affect agriculture and the environment.  His enduring impact on many is reflected in his Google Scholar page.

In 2015, Rich was recognized as an Outstanding Ph.D. alumnus at the UC DAVIS 50th anniversary celebration of the department’s Agricultural and Resource Economics graduate program. In his comments, Rich indicated that “… although my original intention was to pursue a Master's degree, my growing interest in applied economics, coupled with wise council from the avuncular Ben French, convinced me of the benefits of the Ph.D.  It is a decision I have never regretted.”  Rich also balanced his research and professional interests with his personal preferences. He further notes, “… I accepted a position at Oregon State University, where I continued conducting research on air pollution economics, along with acidic deposition and climate change research … Funding from NOAA enabled me to spend a decade assessing the value of information related to weather and climate phenomena. Oregon also provided a great venue to pursue research on water resource management and fisheries. As an avid fly fisherman, I attach both personal and professional significance to these issues, and I have been fortunate to combine them in my career.”   

Rich was not shy about sharing his research findings to improve public and private decision-making. He contributed to many public policy conversations and debates and served on numerous government panels, boards, and advisory committees convened to address real-world resource and environmental challenges.   


Testimonials from colleagues, students, and friends   

The testimonials from friends and colleagues provide personal glimpses into Rich’s accomplishments and impact, and reflect his extensive commitment to applied research, to improvements in real world challenges and to blending professional and personal interests as a means for success and happiness. 


I first met Rich while sitting behind him in a Statistics class in grad school. Back then he was sporting an enormous handlebar mustache.  I remember less about that class than the width of his 'stache extending beyond the sides of his head.  Our close friendship grew not so much from our shared grad school experiences but rather from a shared passion...bird hunting.  I introduced him to migratory band-tailed pigeon hunting in a deep Feather River canyon; he introduced me to duck hunting on federal wildlife refuges.  Imagine the big guy packing decoys, fully clad in chest waders and camo racing out of the parking lot to secure his secret spot on a not so secret pond.  The hunting was not exceptional but the memories are.  Our friendship deepened with our mutual love of fishing.  He taught me to fly fish on a Wyoming fishing lease.  I taught him the joy of floating a river in Alaska, catching king salmon.  I smile whenever I remember his quiet giggle each time he hooked a hog.  I will miss my friend!  And I will miss Susie, likely never seeing her again except on FaceTime. 

Scott Matulich, Washington State University 


Rich was an economist’s economist - efficient, fair, and generally in equilibrium.   

One of Rich’s greatest joys was serving as a mentor.  Much like Mentor, the friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of his son Telemachus, Rich was a sought-after and trusted guide and counselor to students, colleagues, and administrators alike.  He also loved mentoring young people in the arts of fishing and hunting. 

Rich was always looking forward professionally, tuned into changes in the natural environment he loved so much, cognizant of their potential economic implications (e.g. air pollutions, climate change) and often on the leading edge of research. 

Rich was an accomplished sportsman of the highest integrity.  Always playing by the rules, respectful of his target quarry, reveling in the pursuit, and invested in the future of the natural environment. He is missed.  he loved so much. 

Bill Boggess, Oregon State University 


He really was a scholar and a gentleman, and working with him was always a pleasure. He always was thoughtful and thorough and I trusted his judgments completely. And he was a wonderful companion. I miss him. 

David Policansky 

Emeritus Senior Scholar, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine 


I remember Rich Adams with great respect and affection. I’m not sure I was Rich’s first choice for the OSU position, but he treated me with an open mind and nurtured me as a junior colleague. Over the years we collaborated on many research projects and papers, and overtime we became great friends. I felt I could always count on Rich for his support and advice. His integrity and candidness were exemplary, and his support for his students never waived. Indeed, our profession lost a great scholar with the passing away of Rich Adams, and his legacy will last forever. 

Junjie Wu, North Carolina State University 


Rich was a fantastic academic colleague…and the only one who gave us wild ducks, pheasants and fish.  We miss him. 

Rolf Fare and Shawna Grosskopf, Oregon State University 


Rich Adams was clearly a leader among the applied agricultural and resource economics faculty at Oregon State University and within our profession.  His careful, applied research on water resource management and air pollution and his insightful student (and faculty) mentoring skills earned him praise and respect across many disciplines and colleges.   Two memories of Rich speak so well to his quiet, unassuming but also unwavering, commitment to quality and rigor.    In 1995-96, I served with Rich on a NRC committee on Valuing Ground Water where he proceeded to effectively herd the “interdisciplinary – academic, industry and government -- cats” toward a consensus report that was instrumental in recognizing the in situ and ecological services along with the obvious extractive services of ground water and sustainably managing to these multiple services.   About 10 years later, when I became part of the OSU community as Department Head, Rich had recently retired; and while he never reminded me of how it “had been done in the past”, he offered insights on the pros and cons of procedures and policies impacting the department in his classroom-style manner but left me to take final ownership of the decisions.   He will be missed as a colleague and friend.  

Susan Capalbo, Oregon State University    


I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Rich Adams and wish to express some thoughts in his honor. Rich was a true scholar in environmental economics, air quality analysis, and climate.  He anticipated a number of issues that today have become quite commonly analyzed by many professionals and led him to be a highly respected economist, an AJAE editor and an AAEA fellow. I first met Rich when I was on sabbatical at Oregon State in 1980 and he was on leave at the EPA regional office. He and I then interacted and decided to pursue agricultural sector analyses on the appraisal of air related issues.  Initially we worked on ozone and acid rain. Later when I rejoined the Oregon State faculty and he was still at the EPA office he convinced me to work on climate change than later El Niño Southern Oscillation. Our work continued after I left Oregon State and went to Texas A&M . This turned out to be a quite productive interaction where my files show we jointly authored over 45 different papers and presentations over a nearly 25 year period. He was always quite insightful in terms of issues we should analyze and approaches we could address including ones well beyond my initial level of understanding and expertise. In retrospect this really changed the direction of my entire program and was undoubtedly the most influential person behind my own professional success.  I should also note that over those years he was a hunting and fishing companion that educated me on his passions for Alaska fishing and Pacific flyway waterfowl hunting. Thus that being said Rich Adams really deserves a bow from me as I believe he has made a lasting impression on the profession in general and me as an individual through his ability to understand and anticipate key environmental issues. 

Bruce McCarl, Texas A&M University 


Rich Adams was, when I was new to UC Davis and grad school, a year-ahead big brother, confident, sure footed, understated, with a hint of the skeptic, the challenger, the critic.  He moved with an ease and grace through his coursework, prelims, and committee arrangements, seeming already to know what his field would be, what topics would be attractive, how to model them.  I would drop by the office he shared with a few other second-year students to pick up some of that forward draft.  It wasn’t to be counseled, which I rarely asked for but he gave me anyway.  He had the air of success in him.  And succeed he did, almost promptly, like a jet taking off.  He would confide to me once in awhile that it almost shocked him.  It would have shocked me if he hadn’t.  Fortunately we rejoined at Oregon State, where among other projects we co-edited the AJAE together, always with that same easy comradery we had known.  His confidence and sure footedness, his ease and grace – the stability yet accessibility in Rich – remained to the end.  What a privilege to have shared an era together. 

Steve Buccola, Oregon State University 


As I stood in the doorway of his office to introduce myself for the first time, his phone range. “Adams” he gruffly proclaimed. That signature stern greeting was my very first impression of Rich. As a first-semester PhD student and first-generation college student, I was unnerved. Luckily, I’d grown up around grumpy dairy farmers, so I was not completely deterred. I wanted to make a good impression on the benevolent professor who had chosen to give me a chance. Rich had somehow cobbled together, conjured up, or otherwise cajoled a full graduate research assistantship for me, making it possible for me to pursue my PhD. In doing so, he opened a door for me—to a world of opportunities I never could have imagined or accessed otherwise.  

Years later, Rich admitted that his decision to take me under his wing really came down to one person’s recommendation, one person he worked with many decades ago and still trusted to know whether I had what it takes to thrive in OSU’s PhD program. I am indebted to Rich for taking a chance on me—or for at least doing a favor for an old colleague. No matter his reason, I’m thankful he had a soft spot for yet another underdog student from windy ole’ Wyoming.   

Rich’s influence on my career has endured, from day one through today (twenty-one years later). He placed key stepping-stones along my path, which guided me in a direction that has been so enriching and fun. In my first year at OSU, he entrusted me with his farm-friends in eastern Oregon to help inspire my dissertation (and whose insights still inspire my work today). In my final year, he substituted my name for his at the World Water Forum in Spain, where I gave my first high-profile presentation about climate change and agriculture (which I now get to do for a living). Looking back, I can gratefully admit that I would not be where I am today without Rich’s first and repeated leaps of faith as my mentor.   

Going forward, his legacy as a mentor lives on through the graduate students, postdocs, and early-career scientists whom I’ve had the privilege of mentoring. Because of Rich, I eagerly go out on limbs for them and direct important opportunities their way, as he did for me. They too can proudly trace their academic roots back to the distinguished and beloved Dr. Richard M. Adams—“Adams” for those of us lucky enough to once hover around his office door. 

Dannele Peck, University of Wyoming 


All of us fortunate enough to have been mentored by Rich can attest to the profound impact he had on our professional lives.  He was an amazing natural economic thinker with a keen ability to very quickly see through the BS in others’ half-witted arguments - a fact he was always more than willing to share - and a fact that made us better thinkers too.  And the well-deserved weight his recommendation carried opened professional doors for generations of his students, and still does.  I swear there are still times - after 17 years "out on my own” - that I am immediately taken more seriously by someone the moment they learn Rich Adams was my advisor.   

How to be a good economic thinker and the generosity with which he used his reputation to support his students, however, were really not the most important things Rich did for me.  The most important lessons Rich’s mentoring imparted were these two: 

Storytelling and prose matter.  I do not know the last time Rich ran a regression or took a derivative (I’m honestly not sure he ever did), but his ability to see to the heart of an issue and tell a story to make even the simplest ideas sound brilliant was unsurpassed.  He showed us that even the greatest of ideas would be wasted if we couldn’t tell a story that captured readers.  I now teach a graduate class to try to impart some of these storytelling skills onto my own students.  Simply put, he had a way with words that is rare amongst those with acronyms after their name.  In fact, I’m smiling a bit right now knowing that the title above would be irritating Rich since this is definitely not and “ode” and I am definitely not a poet, and Rich would have liked the opportunity to point that out!  He would also be cringing by my use of “impact” in the first sentence! Or these excessive exclamation points! 

But most importantly, I am grateful to Rich for mentoring me on how to live fully. He never explicitly gave life advice, he just demonstrated it in the way he lived.  By example, he showed me that you can be a great scientist, respected academic, and powerful mentor without letting work consume you and without being consumed by it.  Family and passions outside of the office are too precious to be ignored, and can even make you a better thinker.  Many of our best research ideas were hatched in a duck blind, boat, or knee deep in cold water waiving a stick.  Thanks to Rich I learned early that life is too short to drink bad wine, that old hunting dogs make the best friends, and that the most delicious part of a salmon is the collar that everyone else throws away (preferably grilled over wood!).  I only wish he had taught me to be half as good as him with a shotgun - I think he got too much joy from "cleaning up" a difficult bird on the wing after his blind partners had all missed! 

Enough of this blubbery ego-stroking that Rich would have pretended not to like … I think I’ll go fishing. 

Ben Rashford, University of Wyoming 


Rich Adams was the consummate applied resource economist. His contribution to the analysis of land, water, and air resources and their impact on the environment and agriculture span the four decades in which he worked in the field. His resume shows a prodigious quantity of books, chapters, and journal articles. His most influential work was on the impact of climate change and its effect on air quality and agriculture. His approach was characterized by careful empirical modeling of sector and spatial impacts on resource use, with a strong linkage to the underlying biological and ecological drivers. Rich had a substantial impact on the profession of resource economics both through direct service on committees, and as editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. He was an active contributor to regional and national journals and associations. One of Rich’s strongest contributions was through the training and mentoring of graduate students. Many of his graduate students went on to have notable careers. The number of journal articles written jointly with graduate students reflects both his care and concern for their personal and professional well-being. 

On a personal basis, Rich was a valued friend, colleague, and co-author. We met in our first year of Graduate School at Davis and suffered the highs and lows of graduate education together. His infectious enthusiasm for hunting and fishing led me to accompany him on several trips. One of the memorable ones required getting up in the middle of the night to drive north to a refuge for duck hunting. The moment we arrived Rich grabbed his gun and bags of decoys and started running through the night and the marsh to get to his favorite hide. It was a cold but memorable day with some success in terms of ducks. Rich Adams will be greatly missed for both his remarkable personal and professional attributes. 

Richard Howitt, UC Davis