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In Memory of Professor Dick Sargent - Founder of the Department of Economics

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In Memory of Professor Dick Sargent - Founder of the Department of Economics

It is with very fond memories that the Department of Economics announces the death of Professor Dick Sargent, Founder of Economics at Warwick, who passed away on Monday 14 March 2022.

Professor Dick Sargent, founded the Department of Economics at Warwick in 1965. He was the first Professor of Economics appointed at Warwick and the first chair of the Department of Economics where he remained as a professor until 1973.

In August 2012, Professor Dick Sargent reflected on the experiences of nearly fifty years earlier, when he was starting an economics department from scratch on a stretch of countryside on the edge of Coventry. In a video interview he talks about his ambition to make economics a stand-alone department and to emphasise the need for quantitative methods training, which have become a signature of Warwick’s Economics, and an essential tool for the economics discipline. He is the author of ‘The Original Aims: The Founding of the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick’ in which he said:

He is the author of ‘The Original Aims: The Founding of the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick' in which he said:

“This physical proximity to economist colleagues was one thing that helped to create an interactive community of professionals.”

Dick has also been a member of CLARE group of economists, a member and chair of the Economics Committee of the ESRC, a member of the Council of the Royal Economic Society and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics.

He combined a distinguished academic career with times spent in government and business: at the Treasury (1963-1965), the Ministry of Technology (1968-1969), and the Midland Bank (1974-1984) as group economic adviser. He was Houblon-Norman research fellow at the Bank of England (1984-1985), and a member of the Council of Management of the Henley Centre for Forecasting (1984-1987). He was also a governor of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research.

Professor Dick Sargent’s most influential publication was the book ‘To Full Employment: The Keynesian Experience and After’ which provided an interpretation of the British economy from 1950 to 2004.

Professor Jeremy Smith, current Head of Department commented:

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Dick Sargent, our Founder of Economics and former Head of Department. Dick continued to support the Department and the student body up until the last couple of years, and we are eternally grateful for his support.

Dick was a great colleague and friend of many in the Department and will be fondly remembered by those who got to know him over many years. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Dick’s family at this time.”

Here are some messages of sympathy from the Book of Condolences:

From Professor Oliver Hart (Harvard):

“I was very sorry to learn that Dick has died. I met Dick when I arrived at Warwick to do a (two-year) master's degree in economics in 1969. My first degree was in mathematics and so I was learning economics from scratch, but Dick took me under his wing. We had one-on-one sessions for much if not all of the first year. They were enormously helpful. Dick was very interested in growth theory at the time and I became interested in the topic through him.

Dick was unfailingly kind and courteous, a real English gentleman, a type that barely exists anymore. I saw him in 2012 when I returned to Warwick for a degree ceremony and we corresponded also in 2016. I have very fond memories of him.”

From John Dorrington (MA 1970):

“My wife, Carmen and I were very sad to read about the passing of Dick Sargent. We have known Dick for over 50 years, Carmen when she joined the Department as a secretary in its very early days, and me when I became an MA student in 1969.

By coincidence, or maybe not, our paths crossed again when I joined the Economics Department at Midland Bank in 1979. With Dick being based in London, and most of the Department in Sheffield, the relationship between him and the Department was inevitably somewhat at arm's length. Nevertheless, Dick was unambiguously the main driver of intellectual rigour in the Department.

We exchanged Christmas cards with Dick ever since and met him for lunch a few times near his home in the Cotswolds. These were always very pleasant occasions and he delighted in bringing us up to date with news of the Department and its people.

I have been privileged to know Dick over many years and in different ways.”

From Professor Paul Stoneman (Warwick Business School):

“Dick Sargent had a major impact upon my life and career. He interviewed me for a place to read Economics at Warwick in 1965 and somewhat to my surprise, made an offer, which I readily accepted. His second year macro lecturers on growth theory were one of the highlights of the course and his open evenings for students at his beautiful house in Morton Morrell memorable. When I graduated he encouraged me to follow an academic career, which I did via LSE and Cambridge, and then returned to Warwick where I seem to recall he was still Head of Department.

In all things Dick was approachable, warm and encouraging. I even remember after he left Warwick having a rather splendid lunch with him in the Directors' dining room at the old Midland Bank. Quite an experience! In recent years I have met him occasionally at various events and he was still on the ball and very much the Economist. I believe that before he came to Warwick, Dick wrote a (very amusing) paper entitled: "Why are American Economists Better?". In my view Dick was a fine example that they are not. He will be much missed.”

From Professor Derek Bosworth:

“My sincere condolences. I was one of Dick's early MA students, joining Warwick University in 1969. He offered me an opportunity for which I have always been grateful. I went on to do a PhD at Warwick and have worked at the university, on and off, since then. I eventually became Professor and head of Economics Group at Manchester School of Management, at that time, part of UMIST. I am now an Honorary Professorial Fellow at Warwick and still working. My continued enjoyment of Economics research is, in great part, due to Dick's early support, teaching and inclusiveness. During his life he made a major contribution to economics in so many ways and was a true gentleman.”

Related articles

Obituaries published in online press.

1. The Telegraph, 17 May 2022. Please note that subscription is required to read the article:

Dick Sargent, Oxford don who went on to found the economics department at Warwick University and become a senior adviser at the Midland Bank 

2. The Guardian, 10 June 2022.

Dick Sargent obituary