ACCI was saddened to learn of the passing of W. Keith Bryant in late 2022

(September 22, 1934 – September 13, 2022)

Cornell Professor Emeritus W. Keith Bryant died on September 13, 2022, two week­s shy of his 88th birthday. He was a major scholar in the field of family and consumer economics for over 40 years. “Keith was a pioneer in the study of how families make decisions on spending their time and resources and much of our understanding of consumer behavior stems from his research,” noted longtime Cornell colleague, Professor Alan Mathios.

Keith did not begin his career as a family and consumer economist, however. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Michigan State University with a focus on rural and regional development in 1963. He then joined the faculty of the Departments of Agricultural Economics and Statistics at the University of Minnesota. In 1966-67, he took a leave of absence from that position to become a staff economist to President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty. As a result of his experience on the Commission staff, he became doubtful that solutions to rural poverty could be found in rural and regional industrial development. Rather, he thought more viable solutions could emanate from understanding how families allocate their scarce time and financial resources. This pivotal shift in thinking led him to collaborate with Professor E. Scott Maynes on the development of both undergraduate and graduate courses focused on consumption and consumer economics at the University of Minnesota.

In 1974, Keith and Scott were recruited by the Department of Consumer Economics and Housing at Cornell University. This move led Keith to seek an affiliation with the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) where he regularly presented his research at the annual conferences. His service to the organization spanned more than 30 years. During the 1970s and 1980s, Keith served on the ACCI Awards Committee (1976-78). He was on the editorial board of the Journal of Consumer Affairs (JCA) from 1982 to 1990. Keith was also a member of the ACCI Board of Directors from 1985-87, and served as President-Elect, President, and Past-President from 1987-90. As ACCI President, Keith dutifully wore a tie to the conference for the first time ever (he hated ties). When the time came to hand over his presidential responsibilities to the next President, Professor Monroe Friedman, at the Friday business meeting, he joyfully took off his tie and handed it to Monty as a symbol of “the changing of the guard.” But that did not mean his commitment to ACCI service had ended. He continued as an active contributor at the annual conferences. He was again on the JCA editorial board from 1992 to 1998 and was an associate editor for the journal from 1999-2001. For all of his many contributions to ACCI, Keith was named an ACCI Distinguished Fellow and an ACCI Mentor in 1997.

Keith’s family and consumer economics research legacy is large with numerous publications in scholarly journals. He authored The Economic Organization of the Household, which is a textbook that was used in many graduate family economics courses in the 1990s and 2000s. His legacy also lives on in the professional accomplishments of the many graduate students he taught and whose theses and dissertations he supervised during his 25+ years on the Cornell faculty.

While Keith was a distinguished scholar and mentor, he enjoyed a rich life outside of academia as well. In March 1961 he met Martha (Marty) Jean McKinney, the woman who remained his lifelong sweetheart. Keith always spoke proudly of Marty and their two children, Francis and Michael. The family enjoyed many summers fishing, swimming, and canoeing on Charleston Lake, Ontario. After retirement he and Marty enjoyed learning to play the hammered dulcimer and spent many winters downhill skiing the Utah mountains. During the last decade of his life he wrote poetry, his favorite being haikus, many based on seasonal reflections. He and Marty were frequently spotted in downtown Ithaca holding hands and skipping. Keith’s only regrets were not having spent even more time with his wife and children, not perfecting a top spin backhand in ping-pong, and not being able to ski moguls. His was a life well lived.


One's library

Should never be what one is

But what one hopes to be

-W. Keith Bryant