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In Memory of

Stephen Malcolm Gillis

December 28, 1940 - October 4, 2015


Stephen Malcolm Gillis passed away early in the morning on Sunday, the 4th of October 2015, peacefully and surrounded by his family.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Eva May Gillis and Stephen Gillis; and his brother, Coyle Gillis.

Malcolm is survived by his loving wife of fifty-three years Elizabeth Gillis; his daughter, Nora Bynum and her two children Elizabeth and Caroline; his daughter, Heather Salter, her two children Jessica Streets, Travis Streets and his wife Lindsey, Heather's husband Steve Salter, their daughter Sarah; his son, Stephen Gillis; his brother, Douglas Gillis; his sister-in-law, Virginia Reed and her husband John; sister-in-law, Anna Cifers; cousin, Ted Gortemoller; nephews, Shawn Reed, Ryan Reed, Brice Reed, Kevin Gillis, and Ryan Oakley; nieces, Loral Hunt, Victoria and Therese Cifers and Renee Guyne; and many other cousins and dear friends.

Malcolm grew up in Marianna, Florida. He was raised by his grandmother Willie Lee McKinnon. He spent many hours in the home of his aunt and uncle Lillianette and Ted Gortemoller and Aunt Nezzie and Uncle Francis MacKinnon, with whom he had a special bond. At the age of twelve, Malcolm started working for his Uncle Francis at the Farmers Trading Post unloading box cars of cement, selling appliances, collecting bills, auctioning pecans and all other activities associated with the store. He continued working there until his graduation from Chipola Junior College. He then transferred to the University of Florida where he majored in economics with a minor in Spanish. Malcolm worked at Baird Hardware in Gainesville where he met one of his baseball idols, Ted Williams. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity which played a major role in his college life and in the friendships formed there throughout his life.

Malcom met Elizabeth Cifers on a blind date at the end of his junior year. They were married after their graduations from University of Florida and began a life together not knowing where the adventures would lead. The first adventure was the University of Illinois where Malcolm received his PhD in 1964. From there Elizabeth, daughter Nora, and Malcolm moved to Durham, North Carolina where Malcolm was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Duke University. During that first year, Malcolm was contacted by a famous economist asking if he would go to Colombia and work on a tax reform project. That began a lifelong career of working in many countries on taxes and other economic issues. 

From Duke, Malcolm moved to Harvard, where he was a fellow in the Harvard Institute for International Development and lecturer in the Economics Department. He and Elizabeth spent three of those fifteen years living in Jakarta, Indonesia with his growing family of Nora, Heather and Stephen. Those three years were some of the best in terms of his work and also the formation of enduring friendships. His role in the economic recovery of Indonesia after the Sukarno era was enormous. As Malcolm's colleague Dwight Perkins wrote, "more importantly his contributions to Indonesia contributed in a direct way to raising the standard of living of over 200 million people by a substantial amount not only at the time but today as well."

After fifteen years at Harvard, Malcolm had the opportunity to return to Duke in 1984. There he served first as a faculty member and then as Dean of the Graduate School, and later Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Many of those friendships formed at Duke continue to this day.

In 1993 Malcolm became the 6th president of Rice University, a job that he often said he was born to do. He loved his time at Rice, both during his presidency and after. After he stepped down as president, Malcolm returned to teaching in the Economics Department. Teaching remained his true calling up to the time of his death. He loved the time spent with students.

Malcolm traveled to many countries in the forty-seven years of his academic career. He was a founding member of International University Bremen (now Jacobs University Bremen) in Germany, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, in Pyongyang, North Korea and TanTao University in Vietnam. 

Throughout all the travels and work, Malcolm's love for his family and his friends was the most important thing in his life. He adored his children and grandchildren and loved spending time with them on the farm in North Carolina, the beach in Florida, fishing in Alaska, or anywhere they were in the world. He cherished his friends from Marianna High School, and they have remained close all these years. 

Malcolm loved fishing in Alaska with his family; riding his tractor in North Carolina; riding around the farm on the Gator; playing with the dogs; relaxing on his porch watching birds and butterflies and listening to classical music; sitting at the dining room table with the family after dinner, telling jokes and stories; watching Red Sox baseball games; and attending Rice athletic events. 

The following statement from Malcolm's high school annual exemplifies his character: "his willingness to always help and his great sense of responsibility has won for him the respect of everyone."

The family wishes to thank the doctors and nurses at M.D. Anderson for their kind and loving care. We especially thank Dr. Ahmed Kaseb and Dr. Sunil Krishnan

Malcolm was a rock of stability for both family and friends, and his generosity extended to loved ones and strangers alike. He will be fiercely missed by the many people who loved him. 

A memorial service was held at two o'clock in the afternoon, on Wednesday, the 28th of October, at The Shepherd School of Music, Stude Hall, at Rice University, 6100 Main Street in Houston. Please click to view the video of the tribute.

In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to Rice University, Department of Economics, please make checks payable to "Rice University" indicate "Malcolm Gillis" on the memo line and mail to Elizabeth Powell, Department of Economics MS-22, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892, or online at; or to a charity of your choice.

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