Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
Research Associate, NBER
Regrettably, I never had a class from Wick and yet his scholarship influenced me (and my students) immensely.
Wick's work is featured prominently in my New Economic View of American History (Norton 1994) as it provided much of the structure for talking about the 1920s and 1930s and important insights into Federal Reserve policy in that time.
The descriptive phrase "a scholar and a gentleman" certainly applied to Wick. He thought deeply about critical issues and reached (then) unconventional and novel interpretations; one matched wits with him at one's peril. Yet he was unfailingly polite and encouraging. And, in another "gentlemanly" trait, Wick was always well dressed regardless of the venue —office, opera or home—or weather. He was especially adept at dealing with the sauna of Bloomington's summers for which his childhood in Louisiana had doubtless prepared him well.
I remember an IU seminar, early in my graduate years (early 1970s), where a (business school) faculty member got into a knockdown, drag out fight with a student (the subject was the student's need to leave the seminar early to help his spouse with some childcare) while the paper giver (a visitor from LSE) was reading his paper (no PowerPoint or overheads, then). The paper giver assiduously kept his head down and ploughed on with his prepared script while the "disturbance" spilled out into the hallway and down one of those echoing corridors of Ballantine Hall, eventually fading away. Afterwards, when the paper was done, I overheard Wick say to the speaker (with that twinkle in his eye and his expressive eyebrows raised) "Well, that was quite exciting wasn't it…".
In addition to using Wick's work in a New Economic View, his scholarship also provided another highly useful and effective teaching lesson for my students. In the early 1980s, Wick came over to UIUC where I was on the faculty to give a paper in our economic history seminar. The paper was an early draft, pretty rough, and the seminar did not go well (many of us have had similar experiences at one time or another—and try not to repeat). This one, though, would prove invaluable though to our students, including those joining our program long after Wick's presentation. At UIUC, we had a required graduate class "general economic history" whose goals included getting students reading more generally and widely, writing papers, and acquiring knowledge on topics with which every economist ought to have at least passing familiarity—like the Great Depression and hyperinflations. It was the latter that was the topic of Wick's UIUC paper. When I taught this class, I also asked students, as would-be academic professionals, to write a "referee" report on a working paper. Wick's UIUC draft paper was perfect for this. Students universally savaged it providing, ex post, the opportunity to admonish them that talk is cheap, cutting remarks may appear "clever" but being helpful is really important. It helped immensely too that I could point them to the published version of the paper. It was, of course, much improved but the changes themselves were subtle yet completely changed the complexion of the work. It appeared in the American Economic Review (76:3, pp. 350-64, 1986)—a feat that most of us can only dream about throughout our entire professional lives.