Elyce J. Rotella
Associate Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Intermittent Lecturer, University of Michigan
When I joined the IU faculty in 1982, Wick was already threatening to retire, and he did so not many years after. But, he was the least retiring retiree one can imagine. He produced three books in retirement—books which have become classics of monetary history. He was an active participant in our weekly Economic History Workshop both before and after his formal retirement. He came to the workshop whether or not the topic was directly related to his interests—and he always read the paper carefully and asked trenchant questions. As the organizer of the workshop, one of my particular delights was to bring guests working on monetary issues. Such scholars were always anxious to come because they knew they would get insightful comments and questions from Wick. One of my greatest successes was to bring Anna Schwartz to the workshop. Wick had spent his career arguing against the simple causal story put forth by Friedman and Schwartz in their Monetary History of the United States, but he had never met Anna—a strong personality with firm convictions and a famously acid tongue. I rather expected some fireworks, but they clearly liked each other. Such a delightful visit—and I got to see two lions of monetary history spar and emerge unbloodied. It is my most satisfying piece of economic history matchmaking.
Wick was a son of the South whose life was transformed by his experiences as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in the 1950s which opened his eyes to a wider world. Still he remained a product of an older time—a courtly gentleman who was not quite comfortable having me as a female colleague—at least in the beginning. His idea of a compliment was to tell me that the IU Economics Department was wise to wait a long time to hire women because in me they had got "a good one". It took a while, but it wasn't long before mutual respect blossomed into real affection. I have so many fond memories of conversations with Wick about research and teaching, of dinners with speakers after the workshop, of visits to his home. Wick and his beloved Carolyn delighted in entertaining in their home on Nancy Street. When IU hosted the Social Science History Association meetings and the Cliometrics Conference, they invited all the participants to gala parties. One of my most cherished memories is of the baby shower that Wick and Carolyn hosted shortly before my daughter was born. Wick was flabbergasted to learn that in the new world men as well as women could attend baby showers. So we had a delightful afternoon with our colleagues and the department staff in the garden that was Wick's pride and joy.
I learned so much from Elmus Wicker—especially about monetary economics and monetary history. Every time I hear or read a paper in these fields, I try to channel Wick and thank him for the fact that I understand what is going on and have reasonable questions to ask. He was the very definition of a scholar—driven by his own curiosity to dig into the archives to answer some of the most important questions about U.S. monetary history. I left IU in 2010, but I stayed in touch with Wick. I returned to Bloomington for two occasions that recognized his contributions—the 2012 inauguration of the Wicker Chair in Economics, and the conference in 2014 on Financial Crises which celebrated his research and brought the leading scholars in his field to Bloomington. It was an unalloyed pleasure to see these displays of respect and affection for my colleague and friend. We are all lucky to have had him among us for so long.