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Economist, engineer Richard Schuler dies at 81

Richard Schuler, professor emeritus of economics in the College of Arts and Sciences and professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell Engineering, died Feb. 13. He was 81.

Richard Schuler

A member of the Cornell faculty since 1972, Schuler’s research emphasized the micro-planning, management and pricing of infrastructure and utilities, as well as the societal issues of their institutional structure, regional economic impact and environmental consequences. He wrote extensively on the changing institutional and regulatory needs for the electric industry, including its deregulation.

He also explored basic questions of organizational structure in the information age, using numerical simulation techniques, with colleagues at Cornell and the Santa Fe Institute.

Schuler served on the executive committee of the National Science Foundation-supported, multi-university Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems. For 12 years he also taught a course, The Political, Legal, Regulatory Environment of Business, for MBA students in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. From 1995 to 2001, he directed and expanded the Institute for Public Affairs, Cornell’s interdisciplinary, universitywide professional MPA program.

Schuler also served as director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute and the NYS Solid Waste Combustion Institute from 1987-93, and was associate director of the Center for the Environment from 1989-93. He served on Cornell’s board of trustees from 1993-97 and was a member of the faculty Senate for nearly 20 years.

Schuler’s experience extended beyond academia. He was an engineer and manager with the Pennsylvania Power and Light Co. from 1959-68, an energy economist with Battelle Memorial Institute from 1968-69, and served as deputy commissioner of the New York Public Service Commission from 1981-83.

He was a consultant to numerous government agencies and industries on pricing, management and environmental issues, and to the World Bank on energy and infrastructure investment programs for Thailand and the Philippines.

Schuler was also a founding board member in 1999 of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), responsible for reliably operating the electric transmission grid in New York while overseeing an efficient power market, a position he held until April 2012. During his tenure, he chaired several committees and was the board’s lead director from 2008-10.

Schuler, who grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, received his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Yale University (1959), an MBA from Lehigh University (1969) and a Ph.D. in economics from Brown University (1972).

Schuler is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary, along with three children and seven grandchildren.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Rebecca Valli