Obituary: Gordon Klene Douglass

Economist, scholar, loving husband and father

Gordon Klene Douglass died peacefully at home on August 1, 2017 at the age of 90 after a brief illness.

Dr. Douglass was born in Long Beach, California to Wilbur and Lorine Klene Douglass. He was active in church and scouting as a youth, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. He graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1944 and entered military service during World War II. He served first as an ordinary seaman in the US Merchant Marine, dodging torpedoes on gasoline tankers in the Western Pacific. He subsequently served as a staff sergeant in the US Army Corps of Engineers.

After his discharge from the army he enrolled at Long Beach Community College. He later transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, graduating in 1950 with a degree in economics and politics. He then moved east and earned a PhD in industrial economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied with three future Nobel Laureates.

His first job was with the Sylvania Electric Company, where he rose to the position of chief economist. His work guiding the organization financially through the first era of consumer electronics taught him how the economy really worked, and about the potential adverse effects of market decisions on workers, the environment and communities.

Dr. Douglass returned to academic life in 1958, taking a position at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where he taught economics. He subsequently moved to Pomona College, where he served as chair of both the economics department and the international relations program.

He met Jane Dempsey at Claremont Presbyterian Church. They fell in love, married, and raised three children. During his 28 years at Pomona College and afterward as a professor emeritus, his scholarly interests centered on the less developed countries in the global economy and how to correct inequalities. He completed his academic career with service as vice president for academic affairs and dean for Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He retired to Pilgrim Place in Claremont in 1999.

Throughout his career, Dr. Douglass was very aware how economic decisions made in the marketplace often impose costs on innocent people and violate the Christian values he learned from his family and in church, his family related. He was particularly concerned with peace, justice and environmental sustainability. He believed churches should help governments modify public policies to better achieve the common good. He served repeatedly at the local, regional, and national level within the Presbyterian Church in pursuit of this aim.

Dr. Douglass is survived by his wife of 53 years, Jane Dempsey Douglass of Claremont; his three children, Alan, Anne and John; and six grandsons.

A memorial service will be held at a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Claremont Presbyterian Church at, or to the Pilgrim Place Residents Health and Support Fund at


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