Gus Ranis '52, H'82, P'89
Gus Ranis '52, H'82, P'89

A Mensch of the First Class

I met Gus Ranis ’52, H’82, P’89, in fall 1948. He was a gangly Brandeis freshman with a shiny gray windbreaker, which he wore every day for four years. He had a heavy German accent and a huge, friendly smile.

Brandeis was so new it had yet to develop a library system, so we studied together at the Boston Public Library. One evening, Gus sat behind a pile of books so tall I was certain he would end up the world’s foremost authority on whatever he was studying (it was the field mouse, for an ecology course).

Another night at the library, he took a break from his studies and said, “Y’know, Sven Larsen” — a Brandeis economics professor — “is a very interesting man.” Gus became an economics major, graduating summa cum laude.

At the university’s first graduation exercises, Gus delivered such a moving — and depressing — senior address that former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the Commencement speaker, set aside her prepared speech to respond to his remarks about the state of the world.

Gus went on to graduate school at Yale, earning a PhD and becoming one of Yale’s youngest tenured professors. He was a respected authority on what later came to be known as emerging growth economics, which eventually morphed into the study of development economics.

To Gus’ critics — there were very few — he was amazingly stubborn. To his friends, he was highly principled and a source of wisdom and creativity.

His was a very 20th-century experience. With the rise of the Nazis in Europe, he went from affluence, tranquillity and stability to deprivation, dislocation and chaos.

Gus never forgot the scholarship aid that allowed him to attend Brandeis. He generously supported the university and embraced the values it stands for, serving on the Board of Trustees for 27 years. He was indefatigable in encouraging and enticing alumni to ensure Brandeis’ ability to meet the scholarship needs of students.

He was one of my greatest friends for more than 65 years. Showing loyalty to and support for Brandeis is one of the ways we can honor his memory.

— Ed Stavis ’52, G’10
Member, Brandeis Board of Fellows