Rick Ernst

Ulrich F. W. “Rick” Ernst, age 73, died on February 21, 2018, with his wife Dianne Tsitsos, family, and friends at his side. The cause was prostate cancer. He was born in Bückow, Germany, the son of Wilhelm Ernst and Edith (née Leptien) Ernst, and grew up in the Haselhorst section of Berlin. He studied economics at the Freie Universität, Berlin and at the Christian-Albrechts Universität Institute for World Economy, Kiel, Germany. He came to the US in 1966, receiving his Ph.D. in economics at Indiana University in 1973.

Rick was employed by Abt Associates in Cambridge, MA, and by The Urban Institute in Washington, DC, where he worked on environmental and transportation economics. He had always dreamed of applying economic analysis to international development and first had that opportunity when he went to work for Development Sciences, Inc., back in Massachusetts. DSI sent him to Morocco as Chief of Party on a USAID energy project. Rick and Dianne later joined USAID where Rick served as a Mission Economist in Sri Lanka and ROCAP in Guatemala. He loved the analytical aspects of economics most, however, and after a time returned to the private sector, working for Abt Associates again, in Bethesda, MD doing international work, and then for DAI in Bethesda, where he served as Chief Economist, as well as undertaking short-term assignments overseas.

A Rand Corporation colleague once referred to him as an “economist’s economist.” His work spanned the developing world. After long-term USAID postings in Morocco, Central America, and Sri Lanka, he found some of his most interesting assignments in Ukraine, Moldova, Ghana, Armenia, and Palestine. After retirement from DAI, he continued consulting, almost to the time of his death. His last work was developing a structural model to predict the local content of major investments in the LNG sector in Tanzania. To advance that effort, he was teaching himself to program in Python, even as he knew he was approaching the end of his life. Work on that model is being carried on by colleagues at DAI.

Throughout his career, he had the rare ability to use sophisticated mathematical and econometric tools in practical ways, making them understandable and useful to decision-makers in the US government overseas and in foreign governments. He loved mentoring young professionals in the countries where he worked and helped their careers whenever possible. In the process, he made enduring friendships.

Besides his commitment to his work, he was an avid and skilled amateur nature photographer, an enthusiastic (though less skilled) wood worker, and aspired to playing the bagpipes and clarinet. He and Dianne were advocates of liberal causes, serving together on the Mattapoisett Democratic Town Committee which Rick co-chaired. He rebuilt his ties to Germany, returning each summer to explore a different part of his re-unified homeland with a group of his former schoolmates.

In addition to his wife Dianne Tsitsos, Rick is survived by his nephew Rainer Weidlich of Berlin; sisters-in-law Mary Tsitsos of Mattapoisett and Katherine Tsitsos of Aegina, Greece; nephew Bill Tsitsos of Baltimore, MD, and many friends in the US, Germany, Ukraine, and elsewhere in Europe and Asia.

A memorial gathering was held at his home on March 3. Edward Bachman, a dear friend who married Rick and Dianne in 1980, also presided over his memorial.

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