David King Backus, 63, died on June 12, 2016, following a short, hard-fought battle with leukemia. A renowned international economist, beloved educator and mentor, and cherished husband, father, son and brother, he will be terribly missed.
Dave grew up in Pittsburgh, where he built the ties—not to mention the loyalties to the Pirates and the Steelers—that he would carry with him the rest of his life. It was also where he found his first love, and future wife, Marilyn. Although the couple went their separate ways after high school, they remained friends, and—to the surprise of even themselves—found themselves reunited in 1987, this time for good. They married in 1988, and in 1990, Dave joined the faculty of the Stern School of Business at New York University and moved to New York City.
The couple's devotion to each other was complete. To share their happiness, they soon started a family. Dave loved being a father. Whatever activity or interest engaged the kids, he was down for it, and considered himself the clear winner for the effort. He felt himself to be a lucky guy.
Professionally, Dave was the consummate modern academic. An intellectual leader at the Stern School, where he taught for more than 25 years and held the Heinz Riehl Professorship in International Economics and Finance, Dave pioneered a new approach to international macroeconomics, which shapes the profession’s understanding of credibility and monetary policy, exchange rate behavior, and international finance. His work on asset markets helped lay the foundation for the thriving new research area at the intersection of macroeconomics and finance. He was a skilled leader who valued and strengthened the culture of academic institutions.
Dave was a gifted teacher, much loved by his colleagues and by generations of students for his strength of character, his generosity and kindness, and his sharp wit. Driven by his own deep intellectual curiosity, he developed and spearheaded many visionary courses for both undergraduate and graduate students. Prior to joining Stern, Dave taught at Queen's University and the University of British Columbia, and served at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
In his personal as well as his professional life, Dave valued, and excelled at, bringing people together. He shed hierarchy and formality in favor of inclusiveness and camaraderie—preferably over a beer—whether the occasion was Friday afternoon “office hours” at the Malt House with students and colleagues, an outing to a jazz session, or an invitation to his home to watch the Steelers in the playoffs. He was outgoing, engaging, and most of all, happy.
Dave is survived by his wife Marilyn Jason, his children Paul and Melanie Backus, his mother Marjorie Backus, and his sisters and brother Lois Backus, Laura Hoffman, Ruth Grillo, and Rudolf Ramsauer.