Beloved agriculture economics professor David Schweikhardt dies

posted on June 6, 2017 9:23am

David B. Schweikardt (view larger image)
David B. Schweikardt

David B. Schweikhardt, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE), passed away unexpectedly in his home in East Lansing, Michigan on June 2, 2017.

“David was an indispensable, well-loved and greatly admired member of AFRE faculty since 1992,” said Titus O. Awokuse, department chair. “His passing is a great loss to AFRE and MSU. He was a true servant-leader over the years. He gave selflessly of his skills and time and served in various capacities to support and promote our department and university.”

Dr. Schweikardt was a leading expert in agricultural policy and institutional economics and has served as a great intellectual resource on various policy issues to colleagues at MSU and many across the state of Michigan and beyond.  His research and extension work has focused on agricultural and trade policy, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Affordable Care Act, and all U.S. farm bills since 1990.

A native of Indiana, he received a Bachelor of Science degree with Highest Distinction in agricultural economics from Purdue University in 1980, a Master of Science in agricultural economics from Michigan State University in 1983, and a PhD in agricultural economics from Michigan State in 1989. He received a law degree from Michigan State in 2004 and was a member of the State Bar of Michigan.

A funeral service was held to celebrate his life on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at the Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home.

MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics will recognize Dr. David Schweikhardt for his lifetime of service to Michigan State University, the agricultural economics profession, and the agriculture industry with a special reception on Friday, October 13, 2017. The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and the formal program will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Community members can send their memories and condolences to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to be shared here.


Memories of a Colleague & Friend

I believe Dave was AFRE‘s first representative on the College T&P committee, which was new in the early-to-mid 2000s.  He spent an extraordinary amount of time helping all of us who were submitting a package for reappointment, tenure or promotion at that time.  His feedback was extremely valuable, especially because the examples provided by the college were not very good (or at least not very applicable to AFRE), and we had very little to go on other than Dave’s feedback based on his committee experiences.  Dave was perhaps the only one who understood how members of our department needed to craft the reflective essay.  I believe all faculty who came after my cohort have continued to benefit from his expertise, either directly or indirectly by reviewing the many T&P packages that stemmed from his help.

- Rick Horan

I’m very sorry to learn of Dave’s passing. Although I haven’t been here long, I would cross paths with Dave occasionally and always enjoyed the interaction. He was a very knowledgeable and passionate person. I owe Dave much, as it was he who encouraged me to consider the Product Center director’s position and nominated me for it. I hope his family can find some solace in knowing that he was a fine man who will be greatly missed by so many of us.

- Thomas S. Lyons, Ph.D.
Professor of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics and
Director, MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Michigan State University


I did not get to know Dave very well as I joined the AFRE family only two years ago. However, his devotion, intelligence, and wisdom left deep impressions on me through the limited opportunities that I had to interact with him. I was on the undergraduate committee of AFRE’s recent strategic planning that Dave chaired. At the very beginning, he prepared a careful plan for the committee and suggested specific tasks that needed to be accomplished. To gather data, Dave spearheaded the design, implementation, and analyses of separate surveys of undergraduate instructors, all current faculty, alumni, stakeholders, and peer departments at other institutions. He used most recent research findings regarding undergraduate education to help us identify important issues that were relevant to AFRE and come up with practical recommendations. Through these interactions, I saw in Dave a role model for excellence, devotion, and citizenship. He will be greatly missed! 

- Hongli Feng
I cannot express how surprised and saddened I am by the news of David’s passing.  He was kind, generous, humble and deeply curious and intelligent.  I benefitted from knowing him in so many ways but in particular I loved reading his Facebook posts on current events and issues in the agriculture community.  He keep me in touch with his lively and witty commentary.   I saw one of his last posts was of MSU-he was so proud and a cornerstone of the MSU community.  I will miss him.  I am glad MSU will honor his memory in the fall and hope to be there to attend.
- Tracey Boyle

Our offices in Ag. Hall were only a few doors apart and so we would often bump into each other when entering or leaving our offices. We had common interests in U.S. production agriculture and policy, and I took some of these meetings as opportunities to learn more about a policy or market that I thought he might know about. He had a very deep knowledge base, one that others less unassuming would have been keen to display. Also he always had, or made, the time to talk and inform. MSU was very fortunate to have had his services and he will be missed.

- David Hennessy

Dr. Schweikhardt was one of the kindest and most thoughtful men I’ve had the pleasure to know. We unfortunately only met during my final semester at MSU, but the memories we made will last forever. My fondest ones revolve around talking politics, faith, and literature. After almost every institutional economics class, we would walk and talk until we got to his office or found a place to sit. We would then get lost in discussions, and not only was he incredibly knowledgeable, but also inquisitive and intellectually curious. He facilitated and stimulated that in others as well, and I am slowly crossing off the long list of book recommendations he gave me over the semester. Moreover, he was incredibly humble. He would ask for feedback to improve his course and opinions on political affairs, as well as input on current and upcoming projects. He always shared his time and intellect willingly, and he was a true mentor and friend. I will miss him, and will cherish the time we spent together. 
- Adam Soliman
There are many wonderful things one could say about Dave.  I was fortunate to have him as a colleague and friend for many years.  I am also fortunate to be able to read the various comments about Dave that others have been submitting – these are very humbling and revealing about his many talents and dimensions .  He always had time to visit or to answer a question I would send his way.  For the last few years before I retired our offices were nearby, and we frequently conversed after hours over policy issues.  He also often asked about my health as I was going through my treatments.  When I was working on composing the Emeritus Faculty Profiles for Vern Sorenson and Jim Bonnen, Dave gave me a lot of help, especially on the Bonnen profile. So for me it is only fitting, yet with a heavy heart, that I have updated Dave’s AFRE faculty profile at   If friends and colleagues have time, it is a wonderful tribute to his skills as a policy analyst and to his memory, to listen and view the video and oral files posted to the “Presentations” tab on his profile.

- Mike Weber

Thank you to those who have submitted thoughts here, reading them has encouraged me to add my own.  During my time as MSU‘s Ag Econ librarian I appreciated Dave as an ardent library supporter and a sophisticated library user; but it wasn’t until after my retirement when we began running into each other at the Peanut Barrel that I enjoyed those wonderful, wide-ranging conversations others have mentioned.  And the book recommendations!  I really don’t know what I’m going to be reading from now on.  I only hope he realized how much I appreciated those recommendations by my reports back to him on what I had read.  If anyone remembers Dave’s definition of the “Economist’s Diet” that he went on some years ago I would appreciate getting it. I’ve forgotten and would love to be reminded. I only remember it made me laugh.

- Judi Dow

Dave was a student in my graduate course on marketing at MSU, singled out because he had an undergraduate degree from Purdue as I did and came from near my Indiana home just a county away.  I was chair of the committee which recommended that he should be hired.  Dave and I have always been very close often talking about our Indiana roots.  He knew my cousins in his county and they knew him and his relatives, so we often talked about those connections. A couple of months ago, when I encountered Dave in Justin Morrill Hall, I was honored that he suggested that we go together to the AAEA meeting in Chicago in late July and early August on the train.  I readily accepted.  I am weeping about this loss as a colleague, friend and the years he had left to add to our profession.

- Jake Ferris 


Dave today we gathered and met to celebrate your life and all that you GAVE and I truly mean gave.   I was one of the many lucky ones that got to share your life, wisdom, knowledge, humor, compassion and kindness.    As I reflect back on the many discussions, conversations and debates, the one recurring theme that I have come to realize is it was NEVER about Dave.  Yes there were all of the lessons on economics, policy and trade that many have spoken about, but I will remember you not as a great scholar, lawyer, educator, but as a great person and human being; unselfish giving individual, compassionate, caring, dedicated, humble and a kind true gentleman.  Now as I think back to the 100’s, maybe 1000’s of discussions we had in my office, your office, the hallway and yes Peanut Barrel about class, education, students, work, life, family, sports, you always had the “Dave way” of bring light to the situation, moment in time or task at hand.  Your time on earth was cut short, your impact great, and never will be forgotten.  When upon tough times, my time spent with you and memories will bring me to the “What Would Dave Do” moments and I will let them guide me to clear and more thoughtful solution.  Heaven has gained a compassionate, caring, dedicated, giving, scholar, lawyer, educator and truly a great man – Dave.    You will be missed, but never forgotten my great friend.    

- Larry Zink 

Dave was my roommate as an undergraduate at Purdue University, his sophomore year. It saddens me to here of his passing. You just couldn’t wipe the smile of Dave’s face. He loved his Knightstown, Indiana. Dave was a dedicated student with only one distraction, Barney Fife. He would attend class and study from morning till night except from 4:30 till 5:30 when Andy Griffith Show reruns played back to back.
God Speed Dave.
- Glenn N Major, DVM
My name is Xuan WEI (PhD, 2013), Dr. Schweihardt served as the Co-Chair of my dissertation committee. It was such a shock to learn that Dr. Schweihardt passed away while I was in the middle of a conference back in China. I really cannot believe this because we were exchanging emails a few months ago regarding the publication of our joint paper, which is the second chapter of my dissertation. I truly regret that I did not mail the printed journal issue to him earlier. I received it from the publishing house in March and I thought we might be able to meet in Chicago in the upcoming AAEA meeting so that I can pass the journal issue to him in person. The last time I met him was at the 2013 AAEA meeting in Washington DC. Dr. Thorsnbury, Dr. Schweihardt and I were sitting together to discuss the revision about my dissertation. He make corrections of my grammar line by line. He chaired my final dissertation defense.  He hooded me at the graduation ceremony. All these memories are still  vivid in my mind…...
- Xuan WEI
I was stunned to read about Dave’s sudden passing.  Dave and I were classmates while we studied for our Ag Econ Master’s Degrees at MSU.  We shared an office in one of the grad student bullpens. Dave was a nice guy and everyone liked him, unless you were competing for top grades with him in class!  Then you might get jealous because Dave always received the highest grades, at least with the courses we took together, and he had no qualms to ask professors or other students to clarify issues he didn’t understand.  He would often take a contrarian viewpoint to explanations just to test his understanding of the issue whereupon I would realize that yet again I didn’t have the grasp and understanding of the topic I thought I had. Dave was curious about my Peace Corps Paraguay experience working with subsistence farmers and often inquired about the differences in farm experiences, marketing and policies versus what he experienced in Indiana.  Observing Dave’s dedication to/thirst for learning topics was part of the reason I decided to pursue full-time employment rather than study for a Doctorate.  After joining the USDA‘s Foreign Agricultural Service with the encouragement of Drs. Harold Riley and Vern Sorenson I had a great 30+ year career working overseas and participating in US agricultural policy issues while stationed in Washington, DC.  Dave and I weren’t close, yet every few years Dave would call when he had a particular question on U.S. or foreign policy to clarify his questions and get an unpublished “insiders” perspective of U.S. or foreign policy developments.  Oftentimes, he might reference something I said long ago about rural Paraguay farmers (that I had long forgotten about)  to compare with farmers in the countries I was stationed: Argentina, Chile, Italy and Austria and then compare to the impact on US farm policy.  As usual, this provided him a more complete in-depth understanding of the topic under consideration.  I admired Dave for his pursuit of understanding and knowledge.
- Robert “Roberto” Curtis

I knew Dave as a fellow graduate student. What a fine and soft spoken gentlemen. In recent times we met up at a conference in Oxford University where we both made presentations in a session on climate change. He spoke very well and made me proud of our MSU association. May Allah bless him and give his family peace in bearing this unbearable loss. A wonderful person departs but will live long in our hearts. 

- Dr. Pervaiz Amir
Asianics Agro Dev, Islamabad
I took Dr. Shweikhardt’s Institutional and Behavioral Economics course in 2015. After learning of his passing, I keep realizing how much of an impact he has had on the way I approach my professional and personal everyday life. The world we live in reminds us on a regular basis about the importance of generosity, devotion - love. And also about the urge to frame and strengthen these values in boundaries and accountability. Those are the main things that I learned from him, and his influence will last with me forever. Thank you very much.

- Florencia Colella


Dave spoke to my CSS 120 (Issues in Food and Agriculture) class each fall semester about the farm bill.  Prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he discussed the ACA impact on farmers and farm workers.  If students had more questions than could be answered in one class, he offered to return for a follow-up discussion.  Dave truly enjoyed interacting with students and had a wealth of knowledge on many topics.  He was engaging, articulate, and caring.  I always enjoyed having him as a class speaker, and he truly will be missed.  My Fall 2017 class will be dedicated to his memory. 

- Eunice F. Foster, Ph.D., Professor, Department of. Plant, Soil, & Microbial Sciences