On the Passing of George Shultz

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By Shankar Sastry, Faculty Director

This weekend on Saturday, February 6, we lost a true giant – and a huge friend of the Blum Center. George Shultz was considered a pillar of the Republican foreign policy establishment, but was truly someone with a bi-partisan reach and a commitment to the good of the nation. He held four different cabinet posts in the Nixon and Reagan administration, including six years as Secretary of State for President Reagan. He served in Cabinet roles of Secretary of Labor, Treasury, and the State Department, as well as the Director of the newly established Office of Management and Budget. His signature achievement as Secretary of State was his diplomacy, contributing to the end of the decades-long Cold War. He continued as a leading voice on national security, economic, and environmental issues even after leaving government service. He gave freely of his wise advice: providing his inimitable counsel to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, our own senior Senator Dianne Feinstein, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. His legacy will live on. As his wife Charlotte Mailliard Shultz says, “Now, he leaves it to five children, eleven grandchildren… and a world of trusted friends to keep thinking about the future.”

Shultz spent many years in academia: With a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he began as an economics professor at MIT and served as dean of the Business School (now the Booth School) at the University of Chicago. After leaving government, Schultz became a fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and worked there on many causes – including non-proliferation, the environment, and the advancement of developing nations. He also served as CEO of Bechtel Corporation. 

The Blum Center for Developing Economies is especially saddened by the passing of Secretary Shultz. He was a very special friend of the Center. He served as a Trustee since the inception of the Center in 2007. He came to most of the bi-annual meetings of the Blum Center board and offered his sage advice in a low-key and workman-like fashion. As in other matters, he always advocated a Big Tent approach, including other university partners and collaborators. He was a huge fan and outspoken supporter of the Blum Center. One of his more memorable remarks, delivered at the inauguration of Blum Hall, was the observation that the Center’s association with technology innovation and prototyping solutions in-situ carried its agenda much further than Centers focused exclusively on development economics. Coming from an economics professor, this was high praise indeed! We always sought out his guidance for critical decisions at the Center, and he gave freely of his time, inviting us to his home or to the Hoover Institution at Stanford for long discussions.

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