On March 23, a memorial service celebrating the life of Armen Alchian was held at UCLA. David Henderson was there and shared some vignettes from the service.
Here is a webpage with pictures from the memorial.
Here is a tribute to Alchian by one of his finest students, Stephen N. S. Cheung. I found this passage especially moving, but follow the link and read the entire eulogy by Cheung.
Back in the old days at UCLA, it was not easy for graduate students to discuss research ideas with Alchian in person. Most students harbored the impression that he was aloof and not very approachable. I shared the same view initially, but discovered the contrary later. The following is a true story.
In early 1967, after finishing the first lengthy chapter of my thesis, I received news from Hong Kong that my elder brother (who was a year older) had passed away. Understanding that my mother must be shattered by the death of her favorite son, I thought about giving up at UCLA and returning to Hong Kong to be near her. At that time I was already an assistant professor at the California State University at Long Beach. I drove back to LA to tell Jack Hirshleifer the sad news and my intention to quit. Hirshleifer thought that it would be a pity to abandon my dissertation, on which I had already made very good progress. He then said he would discuss with other members of my thesis committee the possibility of granting me a PhD on the strength of the first long chapter alone.
That afternoon I went to see Alchian, planning to tell him what I told Hirshleifer. Alchian obviously knew what I had in mind. But before I had a chance to say anything, he said, “Don’t tell me anything about your personal matters.” So I left without a word. One day later in Long Beach, I received a letter from Alchian with a $500 check enclosed and simply two lines: “You can buy candies with this $500 or you can hire a typist to help you finish your dissertation as quickly as possible.” This $500 was equivalent to my one month’s gross salary, so it was not a small amount. What other alternatives did I have? In less than two months I wrapped up my dissertation. Alchian said it was a miracle. In retrospect, I regret cashing that check and spending that $500. If I had kept the check, I could now show it to my children, grandchildren, and students while telling them this proud story. I know Armen would say, “Steve, put that check up for auction and see how much it would fare now.”
Here are remembrances from some of Alchian’s UCLA colleagues, including David Levine, John Riley and Harold Demsetz.
Here is the obituary about Alchian from the Los Angeles Times.
And finally (for now), here is a video clip of Alchian speaking about property rights.