Alex McCalla receives Distinguished Emeritus/a Award

Photo: McCalla; Bill Rains, Emeriti Association president; Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter
Distinguished Emeritus/a Award recipient Alex McCalla, second from left, is pictured at the Jan. 26 Emeriti Luncheon with plant sciences professor Bill Rains, left, president of the Emeriti Association; Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi; and Provost and Execut


The Emeriti Association launched this award in 2007-08, skipped the next year, and resumed in 2010-11. Here are all of the recipients:

2007-08 — Wayne Thiebaud, professor, Department of Art

2010-11 — Charles E. Hess, professor, Department of Environmental Horticulture

2011-12 — Alex F. McCalla, professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Professor Alex F. McCalla retired on July 1, 1994, on Richard Sexton’s first day as chair of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Sexton perceived “a considerable blow to the department and to me personally, given Professor McCalla’s great standing as a researcher, teacher and administrator.”

Seventeen years later, the department chair is happy to say: “We never really lost him.” In fact, Sexton said, Emeritus McCalla’s contributions — on behalf of developing countries, his academic discipline, his department and all of UC Davis — “would put most active faculty members to shame.”

In recognition of those efforts, Sexton nominated McCalla for the 2011-12 Distinguished Emeritus/a Award. The sponsoring Emeriti Association concurred, and made the presentation during the annual Emeriti Luncheon, held Jan. 26 at Freeborn Hall.

McCalla joined the UC Davis faculty as an assistant professor in 1966 and attained the rank of professor in six years. He served as dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1970 to 1975.

In 1979, as academic assistant to Chancellor James Meyer, McCalla helped in the planning of the new Graduate School of Administration (today called the Graduate School of Management) and subsequently served as the founding dean for nearly two years, until 1981, before returning to the Department of Agricultural Economics (known today as Agricultural and Resource Economics).

Back to home base

McCalla joined the World Bank soon after taking emeritus status, serving as the director of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Department (subsequently renamed Rural Development) and the chair of the Rural Sector Board.

Since his retirement in December 1999 (after reaching mandatory retirement age at the bank), he has once again made UC Davis his home base, teaching extensively — from an introductory course on agriculture to graduate teaching in international trade — and taking on special assignments.

The latter included organizing a conference to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UC Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics and editing (with Warren Johnston) the book A.P. Giannini and the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics (2010), containing papers presented at the conference.

“Throughout this period, Alex has given generously of his time as a mentor to young faculty and graduate students,” Sexton wrote in nominating McCalla for the Distinguished Emeritus/a Award. “He has served as a conciliatory voice during what has proven to be a rocky period for his home department.”

“Despite his busy schedule, I have been struck repeatedly that during graduate student seminars and miniconferences organized to provide forums for grad students to present their research, the faculty member most likely to be in attendance and offering constructive advice is Alex McCalla,” Sexton wrote.

“Such selfless activity, though largely invisible, is, to my mind, as important to making the case that he is richly deserving of this award as his widely known and acclaimed activities in the international arena.”

McCalla also has been active in emeriti affairs — and retiree affairs in general — as a member and chair of the Academic Senate’s Emeriti Committee (2001-06) and president of the Emeriti Association (2008-10), and chair of the Retiree Center’s Advisory Board (2008-09).

Helping ‘the poorest among us’

Beyond his continued contributions to UC Davis, Emeritus McCalla has directed considerable effort toward developing economies and programs “to improve conditions for the poorest among us,” Sexton said.

At the World Bank, Sexton said, McCalla led extensive efforts to enhance agriculture in the developing world and was largely responsible for revitalizing the bank’s loan portfolio.

McCalla, an expert in international trade, also played a key role in shaping policy to diminish protectionist trade barriers in the West — thus permitting more imports from developing countries.

Following his retirement, he continued his service to the World Bank and developing economies — by way of several consulting assignments, including the development of a long-term financing strategy for the Consultative Group in International Agricultural Research, strategy on rural development in Bangladesh, research on food security and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa, and strategy for food security in North Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to his extensive work “in the trenches,” McCalla has continued to communicate with his professional peers through scholarly outlets, including journals, books and monographs.

Sexton noted McCalla’s co-authoring of two chapters in the Handbook of Agricultural Economics, part of the prestigious Elsevier Economics Handbooks series, one titled “Agriculture in the Macroeconomy: Theory and Measurement” and the other “The Changing Context and Prospects for Agricultural and Rural Development in Africa.”

“Invitation to write in the handbook series goes only to undisputed
leaders in the field,” Sexton wrote. “It is virtually unheard of for one author to write multiple chapters, and the diverseness of the material covered in these chapters demonstrates the breadth of McCalla’s knowledge and expertise, which continues now nearly two decades after his formal retirement from Davis.”


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