Memories of Steve Horwitz

I first met Steve Horwitz when I interviewed him for a faculty profile for the University magazine. I learned more about economics (and enjoyed it!) in that one hour than in a semester's course. He was a natural and gifted teacher. He and I, with Macreena Doyle, collaborated on numerous placements of his work in national media. He offered his deep respect for our work and we loved the partnership. My sincere condolences to the many, many Laurentians and others who grieve this loss.
Lisa M. Cania

I knew Steve for roughly 29 years, dating back to before I started at St. Lawrence, or even higher ed. We have been friends ever since, hanging out over a beer and talking about sports, music, movies, and TV shows, or attending concerts together. He was not always the most popular faculty member, but he always put his students first. I will miss his quick wit, laughter, and eagerness to engage people in earnest debate. My biggest regret is that we didn't have time for one more beer and one more concert.
Mark Mende

I owe to Steve and a few others my career at St. Lawrence. As I prepared to come to SLU as a trailing spouse in 2002, my first conversation with anyone from the university was a phone call with Steve, Associate Dean of the First Year at the time, to discuss me possibly teaching in the FYP. With kindness and generosity, Steve found me teaching partners and helped usher me into the program; from the beginning, Steve treated me and other adjuncts with respect as full members of the program. After a very difficult first semester of FYP, Steve remained a supporter and mentor, helping me reflect and grow as a teacher, and later advocating for me to end up with a permanent position at SLU. Over the rest of his time here, I had the opportunity to work with Steve in many capacities, and he was always hard-working, attentive, fair, and intellectually open and honest. We certainly did not agree on many aspects of political philosophy, but every conversation I had with Steve forced me to clarify my own ideas and even to modify some of them over time. For this reason, I very much enjoyed “Bleeding Heart Libertarians,” the blog he participated in for several years, which provided an example of how libertarianism could be leveraged as a force to promote social justice and advance the rights of marginalized groups. Steve was witty, warm, and unpretentious, though he could be biting and merciless in his criticism of what he took to be unnecessary posturing, whether of his intellectual and political opponents or of his allies. Though a prodigious scholar, he was a teacher to the core, and as happy as he was to talk about his own ideas, he was also a good listener. Though I only saw him a few times after he left SLU, he remained an attentive reader of the Faculty and Faculty-Staff listservs, as I would occasionally get e-mail messages from him on various campus doings. I was always glad to know he was still part of the SLU community in this way. I will miss his voice in these little interactions and in his active social media presence.
Elun Gabriel, History Department

Steve could be a "contrarian," as President Fox notes, but he also was funny and thoughtful, and I always enjoyed talking with him, even when we disagreed. I admired his energy and passion for his scholarship and teaching, and his broader involvement in academia. It's difficult to believe there won't be anymore Facebook posts from him, but Steve is nevertheless unforgettable. My condolences to his family. I'm thinking of you all, especially Andrew and Rachel, who I remember fondly.
Donna Alvah, History Department

Steve and I met many moons ago, so long ago that I can’t remember when. We always appreciated each other’s frankness which, without fail, ended in plenty of laughs. May your strong opinions and debates never end Steve, you’ve left your mark. RIP!
Suzanne Noble, Student Life

I was a fellow faculty member from 2001-2008. I never really knew Steve so well, but absolutely all of our encounters were massively positive. His intellect was obvious, his love for teaching immense, and his joy for being at St. Lawrence was up front. A giant of a man, respected by all, there for all students, and a great mind. He will be sorely missed by all whose lives he touched. He briefly and peripherally touched mine, but it left a big impression. RIP Steve.
Stephen Robinson, Geology Department

I worked with Steve to share his expertise in economics, teaching and the college experience for students through placement of his work in the national news media. We also worked on a couple of University committees together. In the course of that work, we became true, real friends. As so many others have noted, Steve was passionate about his beliefs, and I disagreed with him about so many of them! But it was OK to disagree - we could still be, and were, friends. I will miss him so much. The discussions about music (him expounding on Rush and progressive rock, me on Springsteen and country music), food (especially diner hash) and travel (Las Vegas recommendations traded frequently) are especially memorable. We shared so many laughs and did important work. I know I will think of him often when I recall my time at St. Lawrence, and recall both with great fondness.
Macreena Doyle, Communications & Human Resources, Retired

One of the last messages I got from Steve a few weeks ago was a group update to St. Lawrence friends—it was characteristically precise, analytical, and thoughtful. Hopeful but balanced about how things were with him. It ended with a comment that he had watched Karl Schonberg’s online interview with our new president, and he expressed real optimism about her tenure, the optimism of a person who cared deeply, a person who may have left Canton but would never cease caring about St. Lawrence and our mission.

I first really got to know Steve when we spent two years together, along with Tom Greene, teaching in the FYP. The specifics of our course have faded from memory, but the daily excitement of our shared classroom together with our forty-plus students certainly has not. Steve was the key: enthusiastic, demanding, careful, and funny. Joyful. Driven by a passion for social analysis, he brought deep caring daily to our shared work. I felt that daily too when he worked as an inspired Associate Dean of the First Year.  In those years too I happened to be on the Professional Standards Committee when Steve came up for tenure and promotion. I noticed the fact that his curriculum vitae included the category “books” even though, at the time, he had published just one. So “book” would be more accurate. I mentioned this to Steve and, nonplussed, he assured me that books would indeed come; they did, of course, and all of them important.

Through many other shared endeavors, myriad lunches in the Pub, and countless discussions of university issues, personalities, and possibilities, Steve displayed a demanding, hardworking, and thoroughgoing commitment to the life of the mind and, especially, to teaching, to scholarship, and to the undergraduate liberal arts. To St. Lawrence and to all it is. Steve Horwitz was a singular presence among us, as complete a colleague as might ever be.
Bob Thacker, Canadian Studies and English

I didn't know Steve well personally. But I was his colleague for many of those years when he was a member of the faculty. I could not have disagreed more with his politics, but I appreciated the fact that he always made an intelligent argument. In the finest spirit of the liberal arts he always marshaled his data, made his argument and waited to respond thoughtfully to his critics. He was an asset academically and personally in so many ways. As associate dean of the FYP, Steve helped all of us who struggled pedagogically in that program. I remember Steve most in faculty meetings when I and others present depended on him to add substantive points dealing with school issues. He was a trusted colleague who believed deeply in the value of a liberal arts education. I have missed him since he left, and I mourn his loss.
Mark MacWilliams, Religious Studies

While I never had Steve in class, he was one of the people that I always looked forward to seeing on campus during my time on the Alumni Council. Steve served on many panels and was always willing to share his take on "St. Lawrence today" for the alumni who wanted to know more about life of campus. Steve was supportive of the Alumni Executive Council and truly appreciated the work we did to make St. Lawrence a better place. I wish he know how much I think he made St. Lawrence a better place. You will be missed.
Ken Polk '91

Though I did not often get to work closely with Steve, I have dear memories of his quick wit and especially of his radical kindness to me. In small ways and large, and especially in a good gossip after a faculty meetings, he was always available for advice. I'll never forget his invitation for me to guest lecture in one of his classes, on economic theory in Shakespeare, a subject on which he was much more expert than this wide-eyed new faculty member; it was a terrifying prospect, but his commitment to real intellectual discussion made it one of the highlights of my first few years at St. Lawrence. Even when he disagreed most hotly with your point, Steve had a way of showing that he respected you as a colleague--an unusual gift. I send my sincere condolences to his family.
Sarah Barber, English

I was lucky to have been connected with Steve by Bob Thacker who recommended I take a half-credit sophomore seminar with Horwitz. The assigned reading was tough and his expectations were high but I was hooked. After two more Horwitz courses including History of the Great Depression, Steve approached me about continuing my research as an Independent Study. Throughout project, I remember our weekly meetings where he would push me to uncover better primary sources and rewrite completed sections to strengthen the argument, all while providing words of encouragement.

It was clear how much Steve loved to teach - his energy and enthusiasm for ideas were unmatched. He had a gift for facilitating class discussions, allowing time to get to the core of an idea. He gave space to students who held a different point of view or to strengthen an idea not yet fully formed. He drilled the importance of clear and concise writing.  Steve marveled at technology, science and how countless innovations improved our daily lives. He appreciated great music, art and food... including relevant examples in lectures. I always got the sense he saw economics as more than sterile graphs and models but a way to examine complex problems and improve society.

I will miss following along online in his seminar room of 5000 friends but I feel fortunate to have called him my teacher. Steve made me a better writer, thinker, and overall student. Sending my sincere condolences to his family.
Michael McPhillips '11

I was never enrolled in one of Steve's classes, but am proud to say I was surely one of his students. In his role as a ringleader of the Pub lunch bunch, Steve joined Bob Thacker, Joan Larsen and other luminaries of the Sullivan-era faculty in a kind of chorus that offered daily commentary on what we were doing with The Hill News, Thelmo, ODK and any and all other matters confronting the daily lives of students 20 years ago. Steve became a trusted advisor, confidant and ally who relished in a good gossip, a debate on University politics and any conversation about music or culture. In his term as Associate Dean of the First Year, he proved a savvy administrator who built coalitions of allies across campus, bolstered our institutional commitment to the FYP and firmly cemented our now-celebrated infrastructure that provides for top-tier academic advising. In those years and afterward, he was a regular feature of Alumni Executive Council panels and gatherings around issues pertaining to student life and the academic and co-curricular experiences. Our friendship grew and for that I will remain ever so grateful. I will also be grateful for the collaborations Steve shared with me and other journalists. His international profile as a Keynesian and a Libertarian commanded considerable respect from my colleagues across the press. In these last years, when my responsibilities have included the editorial pages of our network's largest newspapers in the Northeast, Steve was always a call or a text message away — his most recent op-ed for us published just after the insurrection at the Capitol. Finally, I will remain eternally grateful for the role Steve played in supporting my wife, Emily Hunt Forbes '04, in a difficult first year at St. Lawrence. With Cathy Crosby, he steered Em away from transferring away and toward a remarkable career as a student, campus leader and stalwart alumna. I can say with conviction that, without Steve, the blessing of our family might never have happened. Godspeed, my old friend.
Ed Forbes '02

I'm shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Steve's passing. I got to know him pretty well during his last few years at SLU, when we were on the Professional Standards Committee (which makes recommendations on tenure and promotion cases) together for four years. It so happens that Steve and I were often reading through files in the library around the same time, and had many discussions about different aspects of the various cases. I learned how seriously he took that responsibility, and how thorough and ethical he was about each case, including some involving colleagues whose research methods and subjects were diametrically opposed to his own. And when he became chair of the committee during the last two or three years, he ran it with conviviality, efficiency, and equanimity.

Because of his prolific social media presence, I continued to get to know him and his intellectual work well after he left SLU for Ball State University to work closer to his new family in Indiana. His FB page became a kind of online salon for debate and wide-ranging discussion of economics, politics, classic and prog rock, and a particularly photogenic sheepadoodle. His followers included people from just about all points of the political spectrum, inside and outside of academia. It was one of the only places online (or off, for that matter) where I might regularly wander out of my own social and political comfort zones, and that was very much by design.

In fact, what I probably took away most memorably from our interactions, both in person and virtual, was Steve's consistent commitment to what he called "the ideological Turing test." It involved being able to present an interlocutor's point of view with such understanding that it could fool someone who actually held that view. That, to me, is not only an admirable skill to develop in conversations across ideological/intellectual difference, but may be a necessary one if we are to get out of the polarized quagmire we find ourselves in at this historical moment. And Steve provided me inspiration to make that effort every single day--and, I expect, he will continue to do so.  I will miss you, my friend--and I'll be making a toast to you whenever I listen to that live version of "In the Cage."
Mark Denaci, Art and Art History

Teaching, scholarship and service were important, of course, but lunch--that was essential. For some number of years, a group of faculty from diverse departments and programs met very informally and non-exclusively in the Pub, then located in Noble Center, for lunch. (Students surrounded us, and they sometimes got pulled into the day's debate.) The conversation ranged from the day's news to students' eccentricities and educational wayfarings, from Buck Street to Judson Street, from Yiddish vocabulary to Wal-Mart, from Nancy Chodorow to Madonna, from The Beatles to Rush, from the Tigers to Lions to the Red Wings, from labor unions to libertarianism to the Vilas Hall administration--it was always good-humored, with Steve's infectious laughter and refusal to take himself overly seriously in that context often getting the talk started. Post-Covid, I hope the current faculty has a meeting place to join for lunch and jokes and collegiality in the midst of students, a place that makes it feel very good being at St. Lawrence University. Maybe it's just for today, but lunch is the SLU I remember most fondly.
Peter Bailey, English/Film Studies

So sad to hear of your loss, Jody. I recall fondly working with both you and Steve, take heart dear friend.

Steve, in a situation almost exactly like this you once expressed support for the economy of words I chose to honor a colleague. Facing your loss, my friend, I struggle mightily, but fail to voice a chord that adequately celebrates your intelligence, kindness, diligence, whimsy, and bravery.
Tom Greene, Psychology

Losing Steve has been and will continue to be very difficult. In addition to working with Steve for many years in various First-Year Program projects and crisis situations, I had the good fortune to team teach an FYP course with Steve.  As a co-teacher Steve was creative, intelligent, generous, playful, and collaborative: a perfect team-teaching partner, actually..  It was the September of 9/11, and so our semester had a difficult start.  And I am still grateful that I had Steve to work ith at this challenging time.  His unstoppable optimism. always amazed me.  With students, with colleagues, with friends, even with this awful struggle with Cancer, his optimism, his plan to "kick Cancer's ass, never left...or at least most of us never knew if it did.  His dignity, strength, bravery, optimism, and upbeat attitude was always present.  Steve, thank you for being Steve; you are truly a special person.  I am grateful for the years and adventures we shared.  But I miss you.  We lost you way too soon. 
Ginny B. Schwartz, Retired