World trade law expert, professor Robert Hudec dies at 68

by Lee Billings

Robert Hudec, a University professor emeritus of law, died in his sleep at his Florida vacation home on March 12. He was 68.

Hudec’s expertise in international trade law made him a leading authority on the World Trade Organization and its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Hudec’s specialties included dispute resolution and the relationships between environmental and international trade laws.

Hudec graduated magna cum laude from Yale University’s law school and received his master’s degree from Cambridge University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio’s Kenyon College, which also awarded him an honorary law degree.

Before coming to the University in 1972, Hudec served on the faculty at Yale University. After his retirement two years ago, he taught occasional seminars at Tufts University in Boston and remained active in international economics. Besides writing five books and numerous journal articles, Hudec also taught at universities in Canada, China, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Hudec is remembered by his colleagues as a reserved, meticulous man who was devoted to his work and whose passing was felt internationally.

Fred Morrison, a University law professor, said Hudec was an “international character” who was one of the “principal authors” and “chief academic proponents” of international trade law.

“I was in Germany at a meeting of German professors of international law, and mentioned (Hudec’s death) in the course of that meeting, and at least half of the professors knew his work and were saddened by the occasion,” Morrison said.

Robert Kudrle, a professor at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, recalled Hudec’s strong passion for his work.

“One time a very well-known economist wrote a letter either to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, and I found it puzzling,” Kudrle said. “I passed it on to Bob, and he immediately wrote to this guy to straighten him out. Bob really was indefatigable in the pursuit of truth in international law and policy.”

In the last years of his life, Hudec battled chronic kidney disease, eventually receiving a kidney from a sister. But despite health problems that Kudrle called “horrific,” Hudec was making the most of his retirement.

“I think he was fishing actually towards the end – I know he really enjoyed getting down to Florida,” Kudrle said.

Hudec is survived by his wife of 47 years, Marianne Miller Hudec, two children, Katharine and Michael, five grandchildren and two sisters.

A memorial service is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., May 3, in Room 25 of Mondale Hall on the University’s West Bank campus.

Lee Billings covers faculty and staff affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]