Leland Yeager at 90. My first reaction was: a lifetime of scholarship of the highest order. My second reaction: what a privilege to have been a colleague of Leland’s when he was on the faculty at the University of Virginia—where so much of his exemplary scholarship took place. My third reaction: what an honor to be counted among Leland’s friends.
In everyday language, a “know it all” is a pejorative expression. But in the case of Leland Yeager, the expression “know it all” applies in a positive way. Not that Leland is omniscient; no person is. What struck me and my colleagues about Leland is that he genuinely knows so much—about economics, about languages, about current events, about philosophy—about most everything that an educated person might try to comprehend. Graduate students at the University of Virginia appreciated the fact that Leland took teaching very seriously. Students recognized that if they could “get it all down,” and then digest Leland’s classroom material, they would have a good understanding of any topic Leland was teaching that day. In an academic culture that sometimes places a premium on cleverness, Leland always exhibits a passion for truth and sound thinking. Those of us who know him could not imagine him dissembling. Truth really matters to Leland.
Kenneth Elzinga is Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia