I’ve just read the moving remembrances of John Henry in the Journal of Economic Issues, most written by those who studied or worked with him (and one by Geoffrey Harcourt, who offers memories of John’s days as a doctoral student). This message is to briefly share a few recollections of my own.
I was never a student in John’s courses, nor did we work together at the same university. But that didn’t matter. And I’ve always been a reformer, while he was revolutionary. That didn’t matter, either. (Indeed, he generously provided a campaign contribution when I ran for Congress.) At the start of my career, John saw me deliver a presentation at a meeting of the Association for Institutional Thought. On the basis of that presentation, he decided I was serious about heterodox economics and took me under his wing.
Of course, John always treated me as a professional equal. For example, he often asked me to comment on his papers, and provided a gracious acknowledgment even when I didn’t offer much help. But, in fact, he was clearly the mentor—kindly offering thoughtful research and career advice over several decades—and today I’m certainly a better institutional economist because of that relationship.
John was an exemplary colleague. He provided vital encouragement and assistance in those early days when the hourglass was running out on my non-tenure-track position, even taking it upon himself to make inquiries on my behalf at Staffordshire University and elsewhere. Year after year, he was never too busy to offer comments on my papers and recommend where they might get published. And he always found time to have lunch or dinner with me at professional conferences.
John didn’t merely teach about the important role of culture in the economy and society—he modeled it every day, throughout his career. I suppose that means I’ve actually been John’s student all along—one of the many of us fortunate to have participated in his tutorial on professional development. A classroom without walls, and a culture of mutual respect and collegiality: revolutionary indeed! I can think of no better way for us to honor his memory than to keep that tradition alive.