Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arthur Beroz

By Richard Vedder

I was greatly saddened when Marc Beroz, son of Arthur Beroz, sent me the obituary of the passing on March 9 of Arthur at the age of 80. Over the past year and one-half, I had continued contact with Arthur as he pushed me to promote his "grant/loan" proposal to revamp the college lending program.

Arthur was a pioneer in promoting a rational college lending program. He told me how, in the mid-1960s, he had seemingly convinced Joe Califano, then Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, that we needed something akin to his grant/loan program, and that Califano indicated he was going to testify before Congress in favor of it, but was relieved of his responsibilities by LBJ the day before he was scheduled to testify. Arthur continued to promote the plan, most recently on his web site, and through cajoling persons such as myself, fellow members of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, and no doubt others.

Arthur had a good idea, and we at CCAP gave it some publicity on our web site and through this blog. He believed there was a way that the loan/grant system could be made more affordable to college students, that loan repayments could be tailored to the ability of loan recipients to repay, and he was indefatigable in promoting the scheme. I hooked him up with our very good friend and ally George Leef as well.

Arthur had severe handicaps that we did not know about until late in our relationship. He was legally blind. He literally worked his way through Harvard. He worked and provided for a family while going to school. He worked hard and promoted his ideas despite his great disability. As I calculate it, he was nearly 40 years old when he graduated from Harvard, and made his living by working at upholstering and as a public assistance bureaucrat, carrying on his real love for economics on the side.

I tried to get Arthur to testify at a field hearing of the Spellings Commission in Boston last year, when he first revealed to me that he had a disability that made it difficult for him to appear. When I offered to come visit him, he politely suggested I not come, ostensibly to maintain a pure professional relationship between us, but I suspect also because he did not want me to see him in frail health and with limited functionality. He called me briefly while out of the hospital a few months ago, and I sensed his health was very precarious. I grew to admire and respect Arthur a great deal, as a person who deeply wanted to help people realize their potential, and who pursued his objective with integrity, shrewdness and determination. He will be missed.

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