Longtime KU economics professor dies

Harry Shaffer gave study of economics a mass appeal

A longtime Kansas University economics professor who touched the hearts of KU students for more than five decades died Tuesday evening.

Harry G. Shaffer, 90, had reluctantly retired fully from teaching economics in January only because a breathing condition forced him to.

“He died in my arms,” said his wife, Betty, who said her husband may have suffered a stroke.

Harry Shaffer

Shaffer, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1919, had taught at KU since 1956. He came to KU from the University of Alabama after having lived in Italy, Cuba and New York.

He would joke that the research specialty of his earlier years — Soviet economics — no longer even existed.

In his later years of teaching, he only taught one introductory economics course for non-majors, where his Einstein-like looks, zany classroom antics and quirky sense of humor endeared him to large numbers of students.

He still had about 700 fans on Facebook in a group called “Harry Shaffer Is the Man!”

Some of the former students had already posted condolences on the site Tuesday evening as news of his death spread.

Joseph Sicilian, chairman of the KU economics department, said he’d known Shaffer since coming to KU in 1976, and said he was “much loved” by many students.

“We’re always running into people of all generations who remember Harry as their economics teacher,” Sicilian said.

Service arrangements are pending and will be announced by Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.