In Memoriam: David Kaun


UC Santa Cruz faculty pioneer David Kaun, emeritus professor emeritus, died on September 9 at the age of 88. He worked in the economics department for about 50 years and remained involved in the campus community even after his retirement. He has also been a generous donor for many causes, including scholarships to UC Santa Cruz and musical and artistic initiatives on campus and in the community at large.

Kaun received his doctorate in economics from Stanford University in 1963 and was affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh and the Brookings Institution before coming to UC Santa Cruz in 1966. He was a founding faculty member in economics and in a interview 2015, he recalled the experiences of those early days.

“When I first arrived here, in February 1966, the physical buildings of Cowell and Stevenson – respectively, the first and second colleges built on campus – did not exist,” he told the era. “It was exciting. There were 600 students, and we added another 600 with Stevenson. I had an introductory economics class and we had four students.

The economics department went on to become one of the largest and most popular college programs on campus. Kaun has taught a wide variety of courses for the department over the years, from introductory undergraduate and labor economics courses to innovative courses he designed at the intersection of economics and the arts. .

One of those courses was Economics of the Arts, offered by Kresge College, which was inspired by Kaun’s love for music, including his experiences as a symphonic clarinetist for over 25 years. Each term, the course featured performing artists as guest speakers. Another class, called Labor Wars in Theory and Film, looked at the film industry. In a preliminary interview, Kaun reflected on his teaching experiences.

“I was extremely lucky, blessed and lucky to end up doing something that was such a joy and pleasure,” he said at the time.

One of Kaun’s former students, UCSC Emeritus Professor of Economics Michael Hutchison, said Kaun was known to challenge his students to promote their intellectual growth. And Kaun was a fixture at Stevenson College, where he would eventually become provost from 1981 to 1985.

“As an undergraduate student, I loved David’s classes and continued to serve as his technical assistant,” Hutchison recalls. “These were the days when dogs and smoking were allowed on campus, and David was a regular at Stevenson College with his hunting dog Greta, smoking a pipe and sporting a casual Irish cap.”

Another former Kaun student and assistant, Steve Owen, who pursued a successful career in international business, says Kaun’s teaching ultimately inspired him to return to the UCSC economics department as a lecturer. .

“Living out David’s passion for first-hand teaching has made him a role model for me, and I try to be as inspiring to my students as he has been to me,” said Owen. “Seeing him in action in the classroom and working with him as an undergraduate technical assistant inspired me to want to give back later in my career, so I can really thank David for putting me on this journey. teaching. “

While dean of Stevenson College, Kaun also created the Stevenson Fellows program, which brought inspiring public figures like George McGovern, Bella Abzug, and Carole King to campus to enhance the student experience.

Outside of the classroom, Kaun’s research interests ranged from the job market and the military defense industry to the effect of conservative “think tanks” on public policy. He was also a strong supporter of nuclear weapons. Art and culture was another of his great passions, and it was also a major focus of his philanthropy. Kaun was a very active donor, supporting health and wellness initiatives and the arts, both in the Santa Cruz community and within the university.

“He was as much a musician as he was a teacher, and he truly believed in philanthropy,” said Sarah Kudela, director of development in the Arts Division. “The main areas of philanthropy he focused on were the arts, youth and underserved populations, and ideally he looked for projects that touched on two or more of these priorities.”

Among Kaun’s many gifts to UC Santa Cruz, he created the Albert and Sara Kaun Chamber Music Foundation at the university library. He has funded composer sponsorships for the Shakespeare Santa Cruz Festival and Holiday Show and provided the classical music program for the Arts & Lectures series. Kaun was also instrumental in supporting the African American Theater Arts Troupe and Rainbow theater. And he helped fund the UCSC Wind Ensemble. Kaun also provided scholarship funds for the Resident string ensemble and the David E. Kaun Music Scholarship Foundation.

In addition to these efforts, he contributed matching funds to the endowment of the Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship Fund. He also established the Milam-McGinty-Kaun Award for Excellence in Teaching, which offers $ 1,000 each year to two outstanding graduate students. In a before profile article Through the Arts Division, Kaun reflected on his philanthropy at UC Santa Cruz.

“I helped some students, which is really a great pleasure,” he said at the time.

Kaun’s legacy at university will continue to support access and success in the arts and academics for many years to come. And those who knew him will remember him fondly.

“David was a fantastic colleague and friend to many of us,” said Economics Chairman Alan Spearot. “Personally, I feel fortunate to have known David, both as an academic and a musician, and his presence and contributions to our community will be sorely missed.”

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