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Don Paarlberg: 1911-2006
Don Paarlberg, BS ’40, a farmer, teacher, senior government official, distinguished professor, author and poet, died Feb. 14 in West Lafayette at age 94. He was an agricultural policy adviser to three U.S. presidents and an economist at Purdue in three different eras.
A professor emeritus of agricultural economics and Hillenbrand Distinguished Professor, Paarlberg was a faculty member from 1946 to 1953, 1961 to 1969, and again from 1973 to 1975.
“Don Paarlberg had a major impact in all areas where he worked,” says Purdue professor Wally Tyner, agricultural economics department head during a portion of Paarlberg’s tenure at Purdue. “He was an excellent teacher. Don was always very positive and brought out the best in his students and colleagues.”
Paarlberg was born in Oak Glen, Ill., in 1911. After his graduation from high school, he remained at home to farm for eight years before working toward his degree at Purdue. He earned his MS (1943) and PhD (1946) from Cornell University.
Paarlberg married Eva Robertson of West Lafayette in 1940; she died in 1997.
Between his teaching stints at Purdue, Paarlberg held federal appointments from Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. He served at various times as assistant to the president, the first coordinator of the Food for Peace Program, assistant secretary of agriculture, and director of agricultural economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also served as economic adviser to four secretaries of agriculture: Ezra T. Benson, Clifford M. Hardin, Earl L. Butz and John A. Knebel.
Paarlberg wrote or co-authored nine books on agriculture and economic policy. The last of these books, co-authored with his nephew Philip Paarlberg, was published after his 89th birthday. Paarlberg also wrote poetry and, at age 90, published a volume of his verses, most of which were written to his wife.
Paarlberg received many honors during his lifetime, including an honorary doctorate at Purdue. He was named one of Purdue’s Great Teachers, received the Sigma Delta Chi Best Teacher Award in 1962, and was selected as one of the six outstanding university professors in 1969.