“Pragmatic economist” Emery Castle dies; he was a leader in environmental and resource economics

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Emery Castle

Emery Neal Castle, distinguished agricultural and resource economist, died Oct. 31, 2017 in Portland. He was 94.

Born in Greenwood County, Kansas, Castle attended one-room country schools through the eighth grade and graduated from Oxford Rural High School in Kansas in 1941. He enrolled at Kansas State University in 1942, but his education was interrupted by World War II. He joined the Army Air Force early in 1943 and became a radio operator on B-17s, participating in 30 bombing missions over Europe.

In 1946 he married Merab Eunice Weber of Wichita, Kansas, and returned to Kansas State, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1948 and 1950. He received his doctorate from Iowa State University in 1952.

Castle began his career at Oregon State in 1954 as an assistant professor of agricultural economics. He went on to serve as department head, dean of faculty and dean of the graduate school. In 1975 he joined Resources for the Future (RFF), a public policy research institute in Washington, D.C., and became its president in 1978.

Castle returned to OSU in 1986 as the first chair of a newly established University Graduate Faculty of Economics. “It was good to have him back,” said president emeritus John Byrne, who had become OSU president in 1984. Byrne enlisted Castle—a firm believer in the land-grant university ideal—to help him elevate the stature of the OSU Extension Service within the university.

He said Castle’s analysis and insights were instrumental, not only in integrating Extension with the rest of the university, but in shaping the comprehensive extended-education mission that OSU embraces today. “Emery was a good friend and a world-class person,” said Byrne, “the kind who makes the world a better place for all.”

Castle was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Agricultural Economics Association. He received distinguished service awards and honorary doctorates from both Oregon State and Kansas State. In 2006 he received the Distinguished Service to Rural Life award from the Rural Sociological Society. A few weeks before his death, Castle was honored with the Hall of Fame award from OSU’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

In 2010, Castle wrote his autobiography, “Reflections of a Pragmatic Economist: My Intellectual Journey, published by the OSU Press. He is also the author of “Farm Business Management” and editor of “The Changing American Countryside: Rural People and Places.”

An accomplished rose grower and exhibitor, Castle served as a consulting Rosarian and Accredited Rose Judge for the American Rose Society. He was instrumental in the development and maintenance of rose gardens in Corvallis’s Avery Park and First United Methodist Church.

He is survived by his daughter, Cheryl Castle Rogers (Rod) of Portland; brother, Donald of Manchester, Massachusetts; stepchildren Rick (Joan), Darcey and Robert (Wendy); five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the charity of your choice or the OSU Foundation for the Emery Castle Chair in Resource and Rural Economics or the Emery Castle Scholarship for graduate students.

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