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In memoriam: Geraldo Vasconcellos

Professor Geraldo Vasconcellos, shown teaching a class in the Financial Services Lab in April.

Geraldo Vasconcellos, a finance and economics professor who never missed an opportunity to talk about his beloved Brazil, passed away early Monday morning. He was 61.

Vasconcellos will be remembered at a university memorial service on Friday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. in Packer Memorial Church. Calling hours will be Thursday evening, 6 to 8 p.m., at John Herron Funeral Home, 458 Center Street, Bethlehem.

Known as a thoughtful and deliberative voice among the college’s faculty, Vasconcellos had long championed the idea of globalization in the business curriculum.

In recognition of his many contributions to the College of Business and Economics and the university, Vasconcellos was named to four different endowed chairs at different times during his 22 years at Lehigh. In 1990, he received the James T. Kane Faculty Fellowship, a one-year award. In 1994, he was awarded the Sue and Eugene Mercy, Jr. Professorship, a two-year award. In 2000, Vasconcellos was appointed to the Arthur F. Searing Professorship, a three-year award. And in 2004, he received the Allen C. DuBois Distinguished Professorship, a three-year award.

He earned many accolades for his service to the Lehigh community, the latest being the Deming Lewis Award in 2006, given to “a person who was a faculty member while the ten-year reunion class was in school and who is judged by the ten-year reunion class to have most significantly influenced their members’ educational experience.”

“Geraldo had an absolute passion for Lehigh and had such an incredible amount of respect for his colleagues and his students,” says Paul Richard Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics. He remembers his first meeting with Vasconcellos in 2007. Brown had just signed on as dean, and Vasconcellos wasted little time approaching him to discuss expanding the international programming within the college.

“Geraldo was so proud of his Brazilian heritage. He had such a wonderful perspective on business—as in life—and he wanted to share that with his students,” Brown says. “Of all the outstanding traits he brought to the academy, it was his commitment to his students that was really paramount.”

A love for “The Beautiful Game”

Those close to Vasconcellos knew of his routines: The entire Financial Times was read over breakfast, followed by the Wall Street Journal. He had an insatiable appetite for news about international finance, particularly in regards to the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, at times, South Africa), which he often discussed with his students in class.

For years, Vasconcellos took the same seat in the college’s faculty meetings, always offering quiet leadership in a program tasked with evolving along with the business landscape.

But it was his undying love for “The Beautiful Game” that inspired even his colleagues.

Economics Professor Tony O’Brien, who came to Lehigh just one year before Vasconcellos, says his friend was excited that his native land would be hosting soccer’s World Cup in 2014—his two loves intersecting at just the right time.

“When I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago about it, he was worried that preparations for the Cup were behind schedule. It’s very characteristic of Geraldo—he was anxious that Brazil put its best foot forward,” says O’Brien. “It's particularly tragic that he won't be here to watch the Cup.  I know I won’t be the only one thinking about him during the matches, maybe even waiving a Brazilian flag in his honor.”

Regarded for his research expertise in global financial markets and investments, Vasconcellos was also widely admired for his service to the university. He chaired or was a member of nearly 50 committees during his tenure at Lehigh. Before he came to the United States to complete an M.S. in economics at the University of Illinois in 1983, he had also served in the Brazilian military, leaving as commanding officer in 1979.

Vasconcellos is survived by his spouse, Margaret; his son, Tiago; his daughter, Tais and grandson Aiden.
 
Photo by Douglas Benedict

Story by Tom Yencho

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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