Micky Falkson, senior lecturer in economics, dies at 83

Micky Falkson, a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and one of its longest-serving faculty members, died at home in Ithaca Nov. 7. He was 83.

Falkson had been diagnosed with cancer recently, according to Michael Lovenheim, the Donald C. Opatrny ’74 Chair of the Department of Economics, and expressed disappointment that he wouldn’t be able to resume teaching History of Economic Analysis (ECON 4300) as planned next spring.

“He was a celebrated lecturer in our department, teaching the history of economic thought,” Lovenheim said. “I know from student testimonials how much students appreciated him and enjoyed his classes. He loved to teach, and he will be missed by all of us.”

Louis Michael “Micky” Falkson was born July 13, 1937, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude in 1959 and winning election to Phi Beta Kappa. He continued his graduate studies in economics there, receiving a master’s in 1962.

Falkson joined Cornell in 1963, serving as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and Department of Environmental Engineering until 1972. He resumed teaching economics in 1976, his first of more than 41 years as a lecturer (1976-1992), visiting lecturer (1994-2002) and senior lecturer (since 2003).

“He was a truly talented economist,” said George Hay, the Charles Frank Reavis Sr. Professor of Law and Professor of Economics. “He read voraciously and could discuss almost any topic in a way that you could understand.”

Falkson presented more than 50 papers at conferences and seminars, focusing initially on water resource economics and systems analysis and later on his interest in teaching undergraduate economics, including a market simulation he performed in Intermediate Microeconomic Theory classes.

Judy Wagner ’66, Ph.D. ’72, an advisee of Falkson’s as an undergraduate economics major, still remembers fondly an early iteration of that simulation in which students assigned as buyers or sellers came together to match supply and demand and set a market price.

“He had novel and unconventional ways of teaching how markets work,” said Wagner, a retired health economist from Odenton, Maryland. “He was ahead of his time in thinking about how to teach.”

Falkson over the years also taught Introductory Macroeconomics and Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory.

“As well as being an organized and popular teacher, Micky was well-informed and thoughtful on intellectual history and always loved a discussion,” said Nicholas Kiefer, the Ta-Chung Liu Professor in the Department of Economics and Department of Statistics and Data Science.

Falkson might prompt one of those discussions, Kiefer said, with a challenge such as, “Name a major economic insight not stated or hinted by Adam Smith.”

Larry Blume, a Goldwin Smith Professor of Economics and professor of information science, similarly recalled Falkson’s fondness for debate.

“Mailroom conversations could go for half an hour at a stretch,” Blume said. “Any time I found an early reference to some important contemporary idea, Micky would come back with an earlier one.”

Golf and tennis were two of Falkson’s passions. He would enjoy posing an economic riddle on the first tee at Cornell’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, Hay said, then “delight in our inability to figure it out until after he explained it.”

Hay called Falkson the “heart and soul” of the Cornell Men’s Golf League, for which he served as a president and treasurer as well as captain of the Masters team. “When we tee off in league play for the first time next May,” Hay said, “I can assure you that the fact that Micky is not with us will be felt by each and every golfer.”

Falkson also was a fixture at the Reis Tennis Center, as a player and avid supporter of Cornell’s teams, and at the Cornell Faculty Tennis Courts, where a plaque honoring Falkson’s “indomitable spirit” and encouragement of other players for more than 50 years will be placed at Court No. 4, his favorite court.

Falkson is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Ellen, and three children: Linda Falkson ’86, Amy Rogers and Arthur Falkson ’93.

“Since my dad’s passing, the community’s response has made me profoundly aware of his personal impact,” Linda said.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cornell’s men’s and women’s tennis teams or to the SPCA of Tompkins County. The family plans to host a memorial service at the Moakley House at the golf course next spring if pandemic conditions permit.

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Rebecca Valli