In Memoriam Raymond J.G.M. Florax

Florax, Raymond

In Memoriam
Raymond J.G.M. Florax
1956 – 2017

We are sad to report that on March 1, 2017, our dear colleague and friend Raymond Florax passed away, totally unexpectedly, in the middle of his teaching semester. Raymond was a true academic in all respects. He lived up to the opening sentence of the preface of his PhD thesis (p. xiii): ‘Knowledge is increasingly regarded as one of the vital (aspects of) production factors in modern industrialised economies’. Characteristic for everything he did was his great eye for detail and his strive for perfection. This was true for his research, his education, and the many administrative duties he has fulfilled. He carried out his work with great passion and dedication.
Born in Heerlen (Limburg) on December 29, 1956, Raymond evolved over his lifetime into a global citizen. Although every Dutch person would immediately recognize the characteristic Southern tongue of Raymond, and also his typical Southern cultural habits (amongst which the consistent use of no fewer than four initials), for Raymond the reality of these cultural differences never turned into barriers. He felt at home in many places. He talked passionate about Tilburg where his academic roots are, but also had fond memories of his time in Wageningen. He loved travelling and tasting the good life in different parts of the world, for example during academic conferences and while being a visiting professor at universities in San Diego and Tucson in the United States, Barcelona in Spain, and Hamilton in New Zealand. Raymond got along with people very easily. The line between professional and personal relationships was thin, and working with Raymond quickly turned into friendship. Doing joint research and working together was fun.

For his research, Raymond will be remembered for his great methodological contributions to spatial econometrics and meta-analysis. Although his interest in topics was wide-ranging, from valuation of wetlands to economic growth and cultural diversity, his main passion was for methodological advances. This in particular was where he always pushed for perfection. This passion for methodology is clearly evident from his PhD thesis on universities as boosters of economic development, which he defended in 1992 at the University of Twente (under the supervision of Peter Boorsma and Henk Folmer), and for which he was awarded the first prize in RSAI’s Dissertation Competition in 1993. This established his reputation as a leading scholar in spatial econometrics and subsequently resulted in several well-known and highly cited publications, often with Luc Anselin. His academic career got a renewed boost when he joined the department of Spatial Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 1997, to lead the  department’s MASTER-point research group engaged in research on meta-analysis in spatial, transport, and environmental economics. In a relatively short period in time, he became one of the leading scholars in the field of meta-analysis. Interesting and relevant applications went hand in hand with methodological refinements and fundamental discussions to make the tool of meta-analyses apt for applications in economics. In 2005, Raymond became full professor at the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University, the same department where his wife, Brigitte Waldorf, holds a full professorship. He retained a part-time position at the department of spatial economics at VU Amsterdam.

Raymond was a deeply respected supervisor of PhD students. He pushed his students to the limits, challenging them on all fronts. He loved to work in teams. His eye for detail and strive for perfection is also clearly visible in the many PhD theses that he supervised, and often explicitly expressed in their prefaces. Also as a lecturer, Raymond was appreciated by his students. His lecture material was always well developed, continuously improving, and his lectures were an important source of inspiration. For his students (as well as colleagues), Raymond was a role model in many respects.

Throughout his career, Raymond never shed away from administrative duties, and also these he carried out with great dedication and eye for detail. He has provided great services to the field of Regional Science. Just to mention some of his activities, he was Editor-in-Chief and European editor of “Papers in Regional Science” between 1997 and 2007, and he has furthermore been on the Editorial Boards of the “Journal of Regional Science”, the “International Regional Science Review”, “Papers in Regional Science” and “Regional Studies, Regional Science”. He has organized several conferences, and he was always available for sharing his strategic insights for others organizing academic events. His contributions to the Regional Science community were recently underlined by the EIB/ERSA award in 2014, and his election as Fellow of the RSAI in 2015. An election that confirmed Raymond being identified as one of the intellectual leaders of the 1990’s generation by Andrew Isserman in the “Golden Anniversary Issue” of Papers in Regional Science. Also in university governance, he has made significant contributions, among which his position as President of the University Council at Wageningen University, between 1994 and 1997, stands out. He was also fellow of the Spatial Econometrics Association, the Tinbergen Institute and the Wageningen School of Social Sciences.

Raymond was a wonderful scholar and great colleague. He will be dearly missed and warmly remembered.

Obituary Raymond J.G.M. Florax (1956–2017) in RSAI Newsletter May 2017 (see p. 14)