Remembrance of Professor Ronald W. Jones

na zdjęciu prof. Ronald W. Jones podczas wręczania dyplomu doktora hnnoris causa SGH

Professor Ronald W. Jones, honorary doctor of economics at the Warsaw School of Economics, passed away on September 27, 2022. Professor Emeritus at the University of Rochester, graduate of Swarthmore College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lecturer at the Summer Schools of Economics in the 1990s, member of numerous international societies and the editorial boards of renowned scientific journals.

Professor Ronald W. Jones of Rochester University was our mentor and friend. He came to Poland first time in the early 1990s as a lecturer at the Summer School of Economics organized in Kortowo by the Stefan Batory Foundation. He came shrouded in legend as an outstanding theorist and lecturer on international trade theory. Since we were already familiar with his publications, the fact that Elżbieta Czarny was first a student of his lectures, and after a year became his assistant conducting exercises in trade theory, was enough for Professor Jones to become more and more associated with SGH. On the occasion of subsequent lectures, already in Warsaw, he was a guest of the Institute of International Economics of the Warsaw School of Economics. Professor Jones generously shared his vast knowledge and experience with us. It was evident that he was not only an outstanding scientist but also a kind and warm-hearted man with a great distance to himself. When we asked him to tell us about his latest work during his first visit, he asked if he had had 15 minutes, an hour or 2 days. He raised similar questions when he had been invited to lecture on international trade theory. He added that he had been analyzing trade for 25 years, and there was no end.

In 2002 – in recognition of Professor Jones’ scholarly contributions and ties to SGH, the SGH Senate awarded him an honorary doctorate.

In the 21st century, our contacts changed somewhat. We no longer met in Poland but wherever the annual conferences of the European Trade Study Group (ETSG) were held. We were together in Dublin (2005), Vienna (2006), Athens (2007), Warsaw (2008), Lausanne (2010), Copenhagen (2011), Leuven (2012), Birmingham (2013) and Munich (2014), among others. At these conferences, Professor Jones usually gave papers on traditional theories of international trade, confirming that – despite changes in the world economy – the Ricardo and Heckscher-Ohlin models still explain the causes and effects of international trade exceptionally well. We also met with him in Minneapolis at the International Trade Meeting. He ceased to be an iconic scholar for us by becoming a kind of “godfather” of the group of Polish participants in the ETSG, which employees of SGH dominated. The most frequent participants were E. Czarny, P. Folfas, A. Kuźnar, H. Nyga-Łukaszewska, and E. Przeździecka. We were also accompanied by M. Słok-Wódkowska and K. Śledziewska from the University of Warsaw.

na zdjęciu ETSG Warszawa [archiwum-własne]

We discussed our papers and projects with Professor Jones many times. We benefited not only from his knowledge but also from the fact that he knew everyone, and everyone knew him. We usually asked if he had known Professor X, for example, and he answered: “X was my student”, or “with X we worked on ...”. When asked about one of the luminaries of regionalism theory, he said: “Dick usually fidgeted next door when his father and I talked about economics”. We then became acquainted with these notables introduced by the Professor as “his young friends”. Thanks to these acquaintances, we visited numerous academic centers abroad.

They were also significant for our co-organization of the ETSG conference in Warsaw in 2008 and an independent organization of the ETSG at the SGH ten years later. As a result, Warsaw is the only city in the more than 30-year history of the ETSG to have hosted the annual conference twice.

We also spent much time with Prof. Jones outside the lecture halls. We sat together at banquets, so those tasty morsels landed on our table the fastest because no one wanted Prof. Jones to wait for them. We had been going to cafeterias and pubs together. We told stories, asked questions, and then listened, listened, listened... These conversations brought together many other scholars eager to establish a closer relationship with Prof. Jones or simply listen to him speak about the world and international trade. Sometimes we even witnessed situations where other conference participants had trouble waiting their turn to talk to the Professor because he was talking to Polish participants the whole time.
Professor Jones impressed us with his superb physical condition. Despite changing time zones or traveling with many connecting flights, he never betrayed symptoms of jetlag, and he could bestow his energy and sense of humor on all of us. So, we often spent long evenings with Professor, which no one felt like ending. We were also amused by the fact that although Professor had not entirely known the way to his hotel or the way from his hotel to the ETSG conference venue, it had not worried him at all that he might get lost. He ended up everywhere on time by some twist of fate or perhaps through intuition and openness. Smiling and relaxed, he walked down unfamiliar streets and always reached his destination without any problems. Often, by chance, he ended up meeting us...   

Professor Jones also helped us in other ways. He did not skimp on his opinions in qualification proceedings. At times, his vote determined the scholarship, enabling us to work in excellent conditions and ultimately advance in our careers.

Professor Jones has no longer attended ETSG conferences since 2016, and in 2018, in Basel, he gave his last lecture as part of the 200th-anniversary celebration of Ricardian theory.

na zdjęciu prof. Jones z kotem Ricardo [autorka Catherine Jones]

Prof. Ronald W. Jones retired at the age of 91. At his farewell conference, we had a representative. We gave Professor our photos with him. There were so many of them that only a handful could fit. The photos were from different years and different places in Europe. When in 2018, SGH organized the ETSG conference, we sent one of the T-shirts reserved for the organizers to the Professor, who did not come to Warsaw then. We received a photo of Professor in this T-shirt with an impressive cat in his arms. The cat’s name is, of course, Ricardo.

Professor Ronald W. Jones passed away on September 27, 2022, and we are already missing him greatly. We were just about to write to him about the ETSG conference in Groningen, which took place in early September.