Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Billy Dalebout (Classmate and Friend)

I first became acquainted with Ryan at an MPA orientation meeting. As fellow economics graduates, we immediately hit it off peppering each other with questions about our respective experiences in economic theory and analysis. We enjoyed our econ conversations regularly after that and formed a bond based on the conversations we had. I think I speak for us both when I say that we were delighted to find that we were assigned to the same MPA group, along with Scott Selen, Kiley Hunt, and Moises Costa. In a strange turn of events, this team adopted the name of J-Pop in reference to Ryan's preference for Japanese Pop music. And in an stranger turn of events, the Kanye West song "Stronger" became our team anthem, but Ryan's interest in the song were mostly focused on the Daft Punk auto-tuned background portion of it and also that the cover of West's album "Graduation" was designed by a Japanese artist. Nevertheless, Ryan had the song downloaded on his computer, and in times of need (usually late at night somewhere in the Tanner Building), he would get a sly smile on his face and turn-it-up! Playing the song reminds me of Ryan and makes me smile, so I have included it below.

This group had greater influence on my experience in the MPA program than I would first realize, and my friendship with Ryan was at the center of this.

During our first year, Ryan and I were both seeking a challenge outside of the basic MPA economics course and made a proposal to our professor, Dr. Walters, to write an academic paper in lieu of our class work. Our proposal was accepted after we developed a project plan outlining a semesters worth of activity that would be considered qualifying for class credit. We couldn't have been more pleased and immediately set to work.

Ryan and I not only spent class time, but also spent considerable time outside class working together on this project. We enjoyed this project immensely and relished the freedom it gave to explore the limits of our skill and knowledge. Our efforts involved considerable time examining the body of research behind microfinance economic theory, cleaning and preparing our data set, considerable thought into developing and econometric model, analyzing data, and writing the paper. Through the process, Ryan and I developed a close relationship and mutual respect for each other. The last message I sent to Ryan in was November 2016 after taking a moment to reread our paper:

Hey Ryan, I just reread our microcredit study and was reminded how good of a job we did. Amazing to think that probably my best piece of work was back in grad school. Still something I'm very proud of. How is married life treating you? And how is work... I think a saw a linked in update recently. I'm still at EPA and have a one year old son now. -11/4/2016

I am saddened that I didn't follow up with Ryan after this. Having been several years since our paths had last crossed, I was not aware of some of the challenges he was grappling with. With the news of his passing, I was deeply saddened.

Along with his sense of humor and intellectual sides, Ryan was also a deeply compassionate and considerate individual who I always admired. In my experience, Ryan was always generous toward others. With Ryan's passing, my thoughts and prayers are with his family (and friends) that you will feel healing from your loss and that his legacy and memories will be preserved in your hearts and minds.

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