Alan Brown and the origins of Omicron Delta Epsilon--a remembrance.
It will be fifty-three years ago this fall, if memory serves me correctly, that Alan Brown came into my life. I was a senior at that time at Fordham College in New York City when Alan approached a faculty member at my school to ask if Fordham would be interested in becoming a chapter in his newly created economics honor society. Our response was positive and, since I was at the top of my class in economics, I was chosen to be our representative
We held the first annual meeting of the Society at Fordham in the spring of 1958 and Arthur Burns was the principal speaker. At the time, Dr. Burns was a noted economist who later went on to head the Federal Reserve. My memories of the actual meeting have faded except that Alan exhibited his leadership right from the beginning to all who attended.
The following fall, our careers diverged; Alan went on to achieve high honors at the Harvard Graduate School of Economics and I graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. Alan selected me to be the first treasurer for OCE and my duties for the next several years were modest. Alan, on the other hand, had an exceptionally clear vision about where he wanted OCE to go and he was, without question, the driving force behind the Society's growth. My recollection is that those early years were spent in building up a solid base of chapters (all Alan's doing).
Alan subsequently learned of the existence of another honor society in economics, Omicron Delta Gamma, founded in 1915 by John R. Commons, University of Wisconsin and Frank Taussig, Harvard University, which, while older and formally larger (more chapters) than Omicron Chi Epsilon, was less active than the younger OCE. Alan was the prime mover to facilitate a merger in 1963 between the two societies, renamed Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE), adding "International" to its non-Greek name. At that point, ODE really took off.
Finally, I should add that, in the years following the rise of ODE to prominence, other economists were clearly acknowledging Alan's leadership in the academic community. I believe that all who knew him were deeply impressed with his compassionate humanity as well as his professional brilliance. A man of great moral vision has left us.