Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business Don Cell died June 12 of an acute aortic dissection. He was 81.
Cell taught at Cornell College for 38 years, from 1962 until his retirement in 2000. As a teacher and mentor, he was known above all for his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom and inspiring others—students and colleagues alike—to do the same. His research focused on the economics of democracy and the way voters and elected representatives make decisions, the intersection between economics and social philosophy, and environmental economics.
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His work appeared in publications in Eastern Iowa and around the country, from the Mount Vernon Sun to the Washington Post. He testified at a Congressional hearing about noise pollution from aircrafts, and consulted with local communities about recycling. Throughout his time at Cornell, Cell worked with other departments, and refused to be bound by a single, declared discipline. In honoring his retirement in 2000, Cornell Dean Dennis Damon Moore said there was no limit to Cell’s ideas. Moore also recognized Cell’s commitment to the Cornell College community, from chairing his department, to serving on all the major committees, to mentoring students.
Cell retired to a capacious new study in his Mount Vernon home, surrounded by his more than 2,000 books, journals, and piles of newspaper clippings. He wrote, researched, and as always, questioned popular conceptions. At his death he was completing an essay on civil rights and a book on economic and political aspects of environmental issues.
Cell graduated from the University of Illinois in 1954, then served four years as a Naval aviator on the aircraft carrier F.D. Roosevelt. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University.
Cell is survived by his wife, Suki, and two children, daughter Jennifer, and son Ben Cell ’90.
A memorial service will be held in King Chapel at 3 p.m. on Oct. 23.