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Volume 55, Number 22   February 18, 2008         

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Professor Emeritus Tom Lantos
Tom Lantos, congressman and professor emeritus of economics, died of complications from cancer of the esophagus on Feb 11, 2008. He was 80 years old.

Lantos will be remembered for his illustrious political career as the Democratic representative for San Mateo, the founding co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and most recently the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. But he also had a profound and lasting impact on the students of SF State, where he taught economics from 1954 to 1983.

"Lantos was one of the first economists who pioneered the economics department at the University," recalls William Mason, professor emeritus of economics whose office was next to Lantos' for 25 years. Mason says that Lantos' greatest contribution was developing an outstanding study abroad program. Lantos was the first Director of the International Overseas Program for the California State University system.

In the 1960s, one of Lantos' staff in this program was Reuven Jaffe, who headed up the Middle East division, and went on to develop a friendship with Lantos that would last 39 years. "Tom was a first-rate educator," Jaffe said. "At home and abroad, he worked hard to understand different cultures and he set up a wonderful model for international education."

"Lantos helped SF State and the California State University to become national leaders in study abroad programs," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "He saw in them an antidote to insularity and a necessary part of preparation for good global citizenship. At the time of his death, Congressman Lantos was working with SF State to create a center for international education in his name."

Lantos was also known for his impressive presence on campus. "He was an outstanding speaker and was in great demand for public events," Mason said. "He and Marshall Windmiller (professor emeritus of international relations) would have debates on the Speakers' platform in the middle of the campus. They would attract big crowds to hear their views on the controversial topics of the day. No one could be better trained for what he ended up doing."

Jaffe adds: "Tom was definitive in his ideas and thoughts but he was also a great listener, someone who listened conscientiously and courteously, and always had time for the students and staff that he worked with."

Lantos' most recent contribution to higher education was in 2007 when he achieved the "Lantos amendment" in a higher education bill that would give both SF State and other master's level institutions new opportunities for federal support.

"His advocacy made it possible for SF State to become the first master’s level institution in the nation to receive Department of Education funding for a great support program for graduate students in the sciences – GAAN, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need," Corrigan said.

Lantos is survived by his wife Annette, two daughters and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Read more about his life in the following obituaries in the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times.

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Last modified Feb 18, 2008, by University Communications