John Raisian, RIP
John Raisian, who was director of the Hoover Institution for a quarter of a century, died Monday at age 73, of kidney failure. My guess is that that was a result of the immune suppression drugs he took after he had a liver transplant some years ago.
John was a fellow graduate of the UCLA economics program in the 1970s. He was a year ahead of me and so I didn’t know him well, but I liked him a lot and I didn’t know anyone who disliked him. He always had a smile for you, and an infectious laugh. The UCLA program was intense and felt intensely competitive. So John’s smile and laugh were always very calming for me.
We became friends in 1982 when we both worked in the Reagan administration under another UCLA grad, John Cogan, in the Labor Department. I remember that he had hanging in his office a picture of his dad and some of his dad’s fellow workers, visiting in a General Electric factory with a visiting spokesman named Ronald Reagan.
John was quite a good empirical economist, but his comparative advantage was clearly in running a think tank. Although Glenn Campbell built the Hoover Institution, which was originally called the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, John took it to the next level, increasing its size and scope after the Cold War ended. At the suggestion of Martin Anderson, John brought me in as a research fellow in 1990, when I was working on The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics. I have been affiliated ever since.
I remember the day he got his liver transplant. I was up at Hoover for a big event and didn’t see John. He told me later that he had been at the event earlier but had received a phone call telling him to show up at the Stanford hospital to get his new liver. He had said that he would go home and change first. “No, you won’t,” said the person on the other end of the call, “Come over here right now.”
When we spoke a few months later, he told me that he had promised, as a condition of getting the liver, never again to drink alcohol. I knew that must have been hard for him because he was a real connoisseur of wine. But I also have zero doubt that, as a man of honor, he kept his word.
I regret that the lockdowns imposed by California’s state government and, especially, by Santa Clara’s county government, meant that I never saw John after early 2020.
John is survived by his wife, Claudia, and by his three daughters, Allison, Sarah, and Meghan.
Note: I mistakenly stated that John had a heart transplant. I thought I remembered our conversation so clearly; this has humbled me about my memory. Also, I learned minutes ago that John considered Claudia’s daughter, Meghan, from another marriage to be his daughter.