Lawrence University is mourning the loss of Corry Azzi ’65, an economics professor who had a “larger than life” presence on campus for more than three decades before retiring in 2002.
He passed away Jan. 8 at the age of 77.
Azzi attended Lawrence, graduating summa cum laude in 1965. He would go on to become a Woodrow Wilson Scholar at Harvard University, earning his doctorate in economics.
Azzi returned to Lawrence in 1970, joining the economics faculty, and over the next 32 years would become one of the most visible professors on campus. In 1997, he was awarded Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
Azzi commanded a presence on campus. He was described as opinionated, straightforward, and often gruff, with a deep knowledge of economics, masterful skills in the classroom, and a willingness to guide and mentor both students and colleagues.
“The term sotto voce has never been applied to you, except perhaps during your ambling walks across campus when you are deep in conversation with yourself,” then-President Richard Warch said in an award citation presented to Azzi. “But in the classroom or the Grill, your booming voice and your body language mirror the unwavering certainty and self-confidence with which you convey your understanding of economics and of the ways the world should wag to your students and colleagues.”
Azzi joined the Economics Department initially as a macroeconomist but branched into micro areas such as labor economics, government regulation of business, and public expenditures. He collaborated with colleagues in mathematics to design and develop a statistics laboratory aimed at improving student learning in econometrics. He continued to teach econometrics as an emeritus professor until 2010.
Merton D. Finkler, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics, worked alongside Azzi for years. He said Azzi’s blunt persona wasn’t a fit for every student, but for those who embraced his insightful, if harsh, feedback or were willing to wade into a give-and-take with their professor, the benefits were significant.
“His views were clearly stated and well supported,” Finkler said. “Furthermore, he never shied away from letting people know his opinions, particularly on public policy topics. Nevertheless, he strongly encouraged students to challenge him and to make present their arguments. Often times, his rebuke of students’ work would be less than gentle; however, many students relished in having their arguments tested and strengthened. … I would argue that the skills they learned from him provided life-long benefits.”
As a colleague, Finkler called Azzi “warm and accommodating” and always willing to provide encouragement.
“I will miss him as a colleague and friend,” he said.
Azzi grew up on the south side of Chicago before coming to Lawrence. He eventually would make Appleton his home and was deeply involved in numerous community pursuits, ranging from volunteering at YMCA swim meets to serving on the board of the Tri-County Ice Arena to coaching youth baseball teams. He joined and then became president of the Ruffed Grouse Society of Northeastern Wisconsin. In addition, he and his family became an extended family for three high school students who came to Appleton through the A Better Chance (ABC) program.
David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, said he loved getting to know Azzi in his retirement. His interest and intellect were as strong for the outdoors and baseball, for example, as they were for the financial markets and issues of economics.
“He loved baseball and had very clear ideas about how to teach kids to hit baseballs,” Gerard said. “I was at my son’s JV game last year and an old-timer struck up a conversation with me, and it turns out he had coached with Corry, and, of course, revered Corry’s deep knowledge and deep commitment to whatever he was involved in.”
Azzi is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jane, as well as a daughter, Melissa Azzi Swamy of Memphis, Tennessee, and a son, Peter Azzi of Denver, Colorado.
Service arrangements are being planned for a later date. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Lawrence University or Mayo Clinic.