Kenneth Dam, Deputy in Reagan and George W. Bush Cabinets, Dies at 89
Kenneth W. Dam, who was deputy secretary of state when the Soviet Union began to implode during the Reagan administration, and who as deputy treasury secretary under George W. Bush choreographed a global stranglehold on terrorist financing, died on May 31 at his home in Long Grove, Illinois. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his son, Eliot.
Trained in a one-room schoolhouse in Kansas, Mr. Dam became a professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 1964 and served until 2004, when he was named associate professor and professor emeritus.
He was the provost of the university from 1980 to 1982 when Reagan recruited him to deputize for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, his former colleague at the University of Chicago.
He and Mr. Shultz were credited with restoring stability to the State Department after the tumultuous tenure of Alexander M. Haig Jr. (who famously and falsely stated “I’m in control here, in the White House” after President Reagan was shot in 1981).
They helped pave the way for relaxation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and laid the groundwork for Washington’s embrace of Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika from the mid-1980s.
Mr. Dam was recalled to Washington from his professorship in Chicago and sworn in as deputy to Secretary of the Treasury Paul H. O’Neill less than a month before the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He was then tasked with coordinating international initiatives by 130 countries to identify and eradicate the sources of funding for terrorist groups.
His portfolio also included financial services, taxes and economic growth in developing countries.
Hanna Holborn Gray, a former president of the University of Chicago under whom Mr. Dam served as provost from 1980 to 1982, described him in a statement as “the most honest of all men” who brought “an admirable composure and exceptional judgment to everything.”
A skilled negotiator and economics scholar, he also served as an arbitrator under the collective bargaining agreement between the National Basketball Association and its players from 1996 and 2001 and again in 2012.
From 1985 to 1992, he was IBM’s Executive Vice President of Law and External Relations.
In 1992, United Way of America capitalized on Mr. Dam’s reputation for honesty after the organization was shocked by revelations, in news reports and from an internal investigation, of abuse of expense accounts that had subsidized the lifestyle of its longtime president, William Aramony. mr. Dam was named interim president, charged with imposing financial oversight on the group to restore its credibility.
Kenneth Willard Dam was born on October 8, 1932 to Oliver and Ida (Hueppelheiser) Dam in Marysville, Kansas, near the border with Nebraska. He was a grandson of immigrants from Germany and Denmark. His father was a grain and chicken farmer.
mr. Dam served in the Army for a year as a typist after graduating from high school and graduating summa cum laude from the University of Kansas in 1954. He then graduated first in his class from the University of Chicago Law School in 1957, then administered in front of Charles E. Whittaker, an associate judge of the United States Supreme Court and a fellow Kansan. (Justice Whittaker served from 1957 to 1962.)
mr. Dam practiced law in New York and returned to the University of Chicago in 1960 as an assistant professor of law. While traveling through Europe, he became deeply interested in the role of the United States in rebuilding countries and their economies devastated by World War II.
He was appointed professor in 1964 and later headed the school’s law and economics program.
His bridge between economics and law caught the attention of Mr. Shultz, then a professor of industrial relations and later dean of the university’s Graduate School of Business. He lured Mr. Dam to Washington in the early 1970s after Mr. Shultz became director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Nixon administration.
mr. Dam was the assistant director of the Bureau of National Security and International Affairs from 1971 to 1973, when he was named executive director of Nixon’s White House Council on Economic Policy. In that position, he was responsible for coordinating US domestic and international economic policies.
mr. Dam was the author of several books, including “The Rules of the Global Game: A New Look at US International Economic Policymaking” (2001); “Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines”, with Mr. Shultz (1998); and “The Rules of the Game: Reform and Evolution in the International Monetary System” (1982).
In 1962 he married Marcia Wachs. Besides his son, Eliot, he leaves his wife; a daughter, Charlotte Dam; and two grandchildren.
when mr. Dam first arrived in Washington in 1957 after law school, “he still had a bit of the farm boy,” Norman Dorsen, a fellow Supreme Court clerk and later a professor at New York University and president of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The New York Times in 1982.
“He wasn’t particularly artless, but he saw the world from a very solid Central American perspective,” said Mr. threshing. However, he added that after 25 years as a law professor, university official, author, world traveler and global economic expert, the man who was appointed deputy secretary of state had little of the farm boy left in him.
“He lost it pretty quickly,” said Mr. threshing.