As one of those privileged to have studied under Friedman, I felt a special loss at his death but also a sense of good fortune to have learned from him, not only when I was at the University of Chicago but also in the years and decades since then. He was a tough, no-nonsense teacher in the classroom but a kind and generous human being outside.
Students were not allowed to walk into his classroom after his lecture had begun, distracting others. Once, I arrived at the door just minutes after Friedman began speaking and had to turn around and go back to the dormitory, wondering all the while whether what he taught that day would be on the next exam. After that, I was always in my seat when Friedman entered the classroom. He was also a tough grader. On one exam, there were only two B’s in the whole class--and no A’s.
The other side of Friedman was his generosity with his time to help students, and even former students. In later years, long after I had left the University of Chicago, he helped me with his criticisms and advice on my work--only when asked. When I was offered an appointment to the Federal Trade Commission in 1976, he was asked by the White House to urge me to accept but he declined to do so. It was the best non-advice I ever got. I would have been miserable at the FTC.
Although in recent years we were both members of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, we each lived miles away and neither of us was physically present there with any great frequency, so the chance that we would both be there on the same day was virtually nil. The last time I saw Friedman in person was in 2004, when we were jointly interviewed on television. Afterwards, he gave me a ride in his little sports car over to the Stanford faculty club, where we joined a group for lunch. Then he drove back to his home in San Francisco, 30 miles away, though he was at the time in his 90s.
More recently, I happened to chat briefly with Friedman on the phone a few days before his death, and found his mind to be as clear and sharp as ever. That will always be a special memory of a very special man, one of the giants of our time--intellectually, morally, and as a human being.
Saturday, November 18, 2006