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Notice regarding Leonard G. 'Len' Schifrin

Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on Feb. 19, 2021. - Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the news that Leonard G. “Len” Schifrin, Chancellor Professor of Economics, Emeritus, died peacefully at home on February 4, 2021. He was born in Monticello, NY on December 18, 1932. His late parents were Isidore and Sophie Diamond Schifrin, both of whom had come to America as youngsters with their respective families. Professor Schifrin never forgot that he was the son of immigrants, a first-generation American, ever grateful to this country. 

Professor Schifrin received his bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1954 from the University of Texas and, after service with the First Armored Division of the United States Army during the Korean Conflict, returned to UT for his master’s degree in 1958. Continuing his education, he earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Michigan in 1964. He taught as a graduate student at Texas and Michigan, and his full-time teaching career included Michigan, Yale University and William & Mary. He retired from William & Mary in 1998 after 33 years of service. 

In his career he was one of the early economists to specialize in health care economics and policy, before they were recognized as specialties within the profession. Research and teaching in medical schools at home and abroad constituted a significant element of his career. He was National Science Foundation Visiting Scholar at Stanford University Medical Center; twice Visiting Professor of Community Medicine at The University of Bristol, England; and, for twelve years, Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Medical College of Virginia, now VCU, in Richmond. He also taught at the University of Adelaide, Australia, in a program supported by the U.S. Department of State, celebrating Australia’s bicentenary year. Professor Schifrin published extensively, gave papers and chaired sessions at many conferences on economics and on health care.  He served Secretary Joseph Califano in the Department of Health and Human Services as a member of  the Pharmaceutical Review Advisory Committee, and was a consultant on Medicare and Medicaid to the Social Security Administration.  For his profession, he served on the editorial boards of four professional journals, undertook much contract research, and was a consultant and expert witness in almost sixty legal cases, representing plaintiffs ranging from private citizens to the Federal Government and various state governments.  

In the area of studies known as “Societal Costs of Illness” his published research on “The Societal Impacts of Motor Vehicle Accidents When Alcohol is a Factor,” presented in hearings in the U.S. Senate, became a significant part of the basis for increasing the legal drinking age across the country. This was an accomplishment that he particularly valued. In total, he testified five times at various House of Representatives, Senate, and Joint Congressional Committee hearings, always at their request.  Despite these and other outside activities, most of all he loved teaching at all levels. Known to be firm but fair, he was very dedicated to his students, and was twice honored at William & Mary as a distinguished teacher. 

In the Williamsburg community, where he resided for 56 years, he was a co-founder of the 1960s local civil rights organization, the Williamsburg Area Council on Human Relations, and an early “in-kind” contributor in the Community Action program.  He was a co-founder of the Williamsburg Soccer Club (now the Williamsburg Legacy) in the 1970s. Additionally, he coached youth basketball and baseball. 

He loved his family deeply and enjoyed being a part of the wonderful, large, Jewish families of his parents with seemingly innumerable cousins, aunts, and uncles. He loved his country for its freedom and opportunity and the University of Texas for its unfailing generosity of spirit and resources toward him. He was a lifelong fan of the game of baseball and greatly enjoyed talking about it with his baseball buddies. He loved playing golf, fishing, watching soccer at all levels, listening to all kinds of music ranging from opera to country and western, and spending time with his many friends home and abroad.  He was known for his wonderful storytelling abilities and his witty sense of humor. 

Professor Schifrin was predeceased by his brother Joe Schifrin, sister Iris Wallack and granddaughter Keira Schifrin. He is survived by his beloved wife of 50 years, Karen; his children and grandchildren: son Jay (Carrie) and granddaughter Kayleigh of Virginia Beach; daughter Lisa Gail Schifrin and grandson Enrique of Chula Vista, California; son David (Megan) and granddaughter Sadie Wren of Scottsdale, Arizona, and his niece Tricia Wallack and nephews Evan Wallack and Luis Gutierrez. 

A Celebration of Life will be held when it is safe to do so. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Online condolences may be offered to the family at