UDaily Home

UD Home

In Memoriam
Kenneth J. Koford

April 15, 2005--The following tribute was presented by Saul D. Hoffman, chairperson and professor of economics, at the General Faculty Meeting on April 11.

Ken Koford joined the faculty of the University of Delaware in 1979. He received his bachelor’s degree at Yale University and his Ph.D. at UCLA. He taught briefly at Vassar College and Connecticut College before joining our faculty, where he spent the rest of his academic career. He died of cancer Oct. 25 at age 55.

I remember the first time I met Ken at his UD job seminar, 25 years ago. It was a seminar that can only be described in retrospect as “Kofordish.” There was nothing like it before or since. He was talking about the economic analysis of a new idea in broadcast communications, something called cable TV (this was 1979). He was young, tall and a bit awkward. He was full of ideas, some fascinating, some a bit crazy. He walked around the room, talking up a storm, gesticulating a bit wildly, grinning occasionally. He wrote scraps of ideas on the blackboard, some legible, some not quite. He communicated an extraordinary love of and enthusiasm for economics. We weren’t exactly sure what we had witnessed that day, but we were mesmerized by it. We surrendered and offered him a job.

Ken worked harder than anyone I have ever met. By my count, he held four, if not five, full-time jobs, many of them simultaneously. He got angry at me once, because I had the audacity to suggest that he was doing too many things. I meant to be helpful. He absolutely did not understand what I was talking about.

At the University of Delaware, he was professor of economics, political science and legal studies. As his department chair in economics, I can tell you that no one ever loved economics more than he. He still beamed with delight after teaching anyone anywhere anytime about the brilliance of supply and demand analysis or principal-agent models, just to name a few of his favorites. He was a constant intellectual force in our department seminars, always perched in the front row just to the speaker’s left. Sooner or later, his left arm would inch up, a grin would creep across his face and he would offer one particularly astute and constructive comment after another.

He directed the University’s Legal Studies Program for several years and threw his energy into that, developing courses, advising students and holding research conferences. He was the editor of the Eastern Economic Journal from 1999 until his death and single-handedly turned it into a much stronger and respected journal. If you mentioned to another economist that Ken was now editing a journal, their reaction was always the same: “Of course. Who else? He reads everything, understands everything and is interested in everything.” That was Ken.

Ken was chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee of the Faculty Senate for many hears. In that capacity, he evaluated many of the undergraduate programs at the University of Delaware. He was a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Faculty Senate and the General Education Committee. Bobby Gempesaw reminded me that when the economics department proposed what is now a thriving Ph.D. program, Ken voted against it, pointing out some weaknesses that we had not seen. We corrected it and that’s probably why it is thriving today. He loved the University of Delaware deeply, eventually even forgiving the inconvenient fact that it was not located in California.

From 1990-96, Ken Koford was co-director of an economic education program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, that the University of Delaware ran in Bulgaria. He continued this academic relationship after the program ended, making many visits to the University of Sofia, which became a second academic home for him. He traveled there frequently, fascinated by this economic laboratory of a country making the transition from central planning to a market economy. He was a Fulbright lecturer in Bulgaria in 1997 and a visiting professor there several times, often without pay and at his own expense. He met his wife, Blagovesta, there. In 2001, Ken Koford was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Sofia for his many contributions to that university. His death was mourned deeply in Sofia and also among the growing community of Bulgarian economists, most of them University of Delaware graduates, in the U.S. In the fall of 2005, Jeff Miller, my colleague and Ken’s frequent coauthor, will present the inaugural Ken Koford lecture at Sofia University. In Bulgarian economics circles, Ken Koford is more famous than Alan Greenspan.

Ken Koford was truly an economics force of nature who resided on the fourth floor of Purnell Hall for 25 intense and productive years. In those years, he accomplished an enormous amount and contributed an enormous amount to the department, the University and the profession. His legacy will remain strong through the many programs he nurtured and the enormous force of his intellect and his personality.

•  •  •  •  •  • 

Oct. 27, 2004--Kenneth John Koford, 55, UD professor of economics of Newark, died Monday, Oct. 25, at home after a struggle with cancer.

He received his bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1970 and his master's and doctoral degrees from UCLA in 1977.

Dr. Koford joined UD’s Department of Economics in 1979. He was active as a teacher not only of economics but also as founder and director of and teacher in the university's Legal Studies Program.

From 1990-96, he directed the U.S. AID program in Bulgaria, remaining involved in Bulgarian relief until shortly before his death.

Well respected in the academic community, he held many posts of distinction. In 1991, he was a resident scholar at the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in New York, and in 1997, he taught as a Fullbright lecturer at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. He had also served as the editor of the Eastern Economics Journal since 1999.

For his many contributions to university and country, Dr. Koford was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Sofia in 2001.

His numerous professional affiliations included membership in the American Economics Association and the American Political Science Association.

He is survived by his wife, Blagovesta N. Dimitrova-Koford; mother, Theresa Koford of California; father, Kenneth H. Koford, and stepmother, Esperanza, of California; brother, Stuart Koford, and his wife, Gayle, of Chicago; niece, Michelle Koford; and stepsister, Yolanda Vera.

No funeral service will be held.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Department of Economics, University of Delaware, Purnell Hall, Newark, DE 19717.

To send condolences, visit [www.spicer-mullikinfuneralhomes.com].