Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Econonomics
1117 Budapest, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/a

Péter Pete, founder, head, and face of the ELTECON passed away

Pete Péter (1953-2022)

 

Péter Pete was born in Zalaegerszeg in 1953. The family moved to Székesfehérvár, where he graduated from high school. He enrolled at Karl Marx University of Economics in 1971. He recounted that, unlike many others in his year, he had no clue what economics was about. So, as he had no way filtering out irrelevant or ideological courses, he learnt it all, to the letter, from Mathematics to Marxist Political Economy (he could quote long passages from the texts of those latter courses even in his sixties, usually in service of a sarcastic joke).

 

He graduated in 1977 and received a university doctorate in 1979, having been hired as an assistant professor at the Political Economy department of Budapest Technical University (BME) in 1978.
From 1980 he worked at the Economic Research Institute of the Academy of Sciences (MTA-KTI). That Institute played a pivotal role in Economics in Hungary at the time, and it was there that he could work with such leading lights as András Bródy and János Kornai. It was there that he was first exposed to mainstream Economics and at that point that he decided not to follow the well-trodden career path of becoming a mid-level manager of a state-owned company, but to choose academic research and teaching as a profession.

 

He was one of the first people in Hungary who had a chance and the will to study Economics in the USA: he was admitted as a graduate student to the PhD program of the University of Connecticut. It was there that he systematically acquired the approach and the methods of mainstream Economics. He later referred to this period as studying day and night as his earlier studies in Hungary had not prepared him with the necessary prerequisites. His diligence and skill, though brought fruit: upon acquiring his PhD, in 1988 he was hired as a visiting, and, from 1990, assistant professor at the University of Colorado. 

 

In 1992 he successfully applied for a senior position in the Treasury of New Zealand – that is where he could first apply what he learnt in the USA in real life. He returned to the Economics Research institute in Budapest in 1994 to a senior research position. In addition to his research, his textbooks, his reviews and his commentary on public policy, from this time on, his contribution we are most grateful for was helping reform tertiary economics education in Hungary.

 

He started teaching Economics in 1994 and received his habilitation in 2001 at Debrecen University. In 2002, when Attila Chikán as university president embarked on a major curricular reform effort at Budapest Corvinus University, he was asked to chair the Macroeconomics Department, and so, along with Gábor Kertesi and the late Gábor Kézdi, he became one of the faces of the new curricula, based on strong fundamentals and western textbooks. The research and teaching, and especially the enthusiastic team of colleagues he built up in Macroeconomics gave the skills to many students to launch a successful career. Many Hungarian Macroeconomics research and economic policy experts have, in addition to their own efforts, Péter Pete to thank for their success. Having graduated from under his wings is a strong signal of quality to this day. 

 

He also joined the work of the Invisible College (Láthatatlan Kollégium) as a tutor, launching the career of many a researcher there as well. He also taught at colleges of advanced studies (szakkollégiumok). He was appointed full professor in 2006, he was awarded the Popovics Prize of the National Bank of Hungary in 2008, and he was given the Memorial Prize for Hungarian Higher Education in 2012. 

 

When, in 2007, Attila Chikán was not reelected as university president, Péter Pete quit  Corvinus University. Along with a circle of colleagues and friends, he was one of those who launched a brand new undergraduate Economics program, where courses would follow the best international practices, use the best textbooks available and they would build one upon the other and reinforce each other. The Social Science Faculty of ELTE University (TÁTK) adopted the project (which was given the moniker ELTEcon), by establishing an Economics Department, chaired by Péter Pete. This project (ELTEcon BA started in 2008, ELTEcon MA launched in 2012) proved a success: students were trained with special attention and care. Students won competitions, and alumni went on to graduate schools at prestigious universities, to junior research positions, to major companies, leading financial institutions and consultancies. 

 

Péter Pete, who, in addition to courses on Macroeconomics, insisted on teaching the Introduction to Economics lectures all through the years, was more than a mere department head. Until he retired in 2020, he was the first professor new ELTEcon students met and the last who shook their hands when passing the state examination. With his devotion, his spirit and his wit, he was the very emblem of the program. Generations of students have evoked his bons mots and expressed their gratitude on different social fora. 

 

 

He passed away on the 19th of September 2022, after a battle with severe illness.

We, the members of the ELTEcon community, his colleagues and his students remain eternally grateful to Him for his knowledge and wisdom as well as for the institutions he created. He remains a lodestar for many of us.

 

May He Rest in Peace

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