Arthur Benavie, a legendary professor of economics at UNC-CH, died unexpectedly on April 11 at his home at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill. His wife, Marcy Lansman, was with him when he died.
Art taught for more than 50 years at UNC. He was a passionate, open-hearted man, combining the gifts of a great talker and a great listener. Anyone who spoke with him, whether for five minutes or three hours, could feel his full attention and warmth.
His students sensed the joy he brought to the subject and his deep affection for them. For many years he taught large classes in introductory economics and was often stopped on the street by students who had taken his class years earlier.
After retirement, Art continued to teach a popular first-year seminar on the drug war. One student wrote in an evaluation, “I literally love Art Benavie with all of my heart. He challenges you and makes you think harder about your statements.” Art received several teaching awards, including the university-wide Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Art was born in Detroit, where his father, Sam Benavie, was a well-known orchestra conductor. As a child, Art made music the center of his life. He began taking violin lessons at 10, and progressed quickly to become something of a child prodigy, appearing several times as a soloist with the Detroit Symphony. At 16, aspiring to become a concert violinist, he moved to New York to study with Louis Persinger, known as the “teacher of great violinists.” Although Art became a college professor rather than a professional musician, he played the violin for the rest of his life.
In 1950, Art moved back to Detroit and took classes at Wayne State University. The social sciences excited him, especially economics. He earned an M.A. in economics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1955 and, after a stint in the Army, a Ph.D. in 1963. He was an assistant professor at Princeton University and at San Francisco State before coming to UNC-CH in 1967.
Art published many academic papers in economics. In the early 1990s, he began writing for a broader audience as well, on public policy issues he felt strongly about. He published four books for the general public: Deficit Hysteria (1998), Social Security Under the Gun (2003), Drugs: America’s Holy War (2008), and How the Drug War Ruins American Lives (2016).
In 1987, he married Marcy Lansman, the love of his life. During their 35 years together they enjoyed spirited conversation with friends, traveling, classical music, hiking, and watching movies. But most of all they delighted in each other’s company.
Art was a committed supporter of the ACLU and would have enjoyed knowing he had inspired contributions to promote democracy and civil rights. For condolences you may visit: www.walkersfuneralservice.com.
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