Louis Lefeber, noted economist and founding director of York University’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), died at Mount Sinai Hospital on July 28.
Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1924, Lefeber left Hungary in the early 1950s, first heading to Italy, and then to Venezuela “because the visa line was shortest,” he said. He stayed in Venezuela, where he worked in the oil industry for a number of years.
After travelling to New York on a Venezuelan passport to visit his brother, he was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a graduate student in economics despite the fact that he had no documentation of his prior education. He obtained a doctorate in economics from MIT and eventually taught there.
In the early 1970s, he moved to Toronto with his wife, Rosalind, having accepted a position in the Economics Department at York University where he remained for the rest of his career.
Lefeber was a leading figure in development economics, and published research on India as well as various Latin American countries. He played a key role in the creation of CERLAC and was its director from 1978-84, as well as a professor of economics. Lefeber dedicated much of his energy to shaping economic policies, and worked closely with international organizations and progressive political leaders, most notably former Greek prime minister Andreas Papandreou.
In his final years, Lefeber remained an active scholar and staunch supporter of CERLAC.