Otto Gustavo Wadsted 1933-2010


By Luigi Logrippo


Otto Gustavo Wadsted was born Danish in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 1933. His father was the noted Danish diplomat Otto Wadsted and his mother was Argentinean. Traces of his father’s activities can still be found on the Web.

In his early life, Otto lived in several countries: the USA, then after WW II in Italy, and then in Brazil. In Brazil he obtained a Civil Engineering degree in 1956 and worked as a civil engineer in Rio de Janeiro during the heady days of President Kubitschek. Brazil and Rio always occupied a very special place in his heart.

He completed a Master’s degree in Engineering and Administration at MIT in 1966. He did some further graduate work at Columbia, and, I believe he told me, also at Harvard. Here are some photos of him in the mid-sixties (Photo 1, Photo2, Photo3). He worked for some time at the World Bank, and this activity took him to several countries that he got to know well, especially Venezuela and Bolivia.

In 1971 he got a position at the University of Ottawa (Canada), where he taught in the Department of Economics until 1996. He was very proud of the many students he introduced to economics. He was very interested in the problems of developing countries, industrialization, employment, and poverty. Some of his publications can be found by browsing the Web.

He never married, and lived many years with his mother. He lived in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa and frequented late evening Sunday Masses in St. Patrick’s Basilica downtown. He was a night person … He liked to remember an episode where he dived in the frigid Rideau Canal to save a suicidal woman, episode that was reported in the local media.

Otto died on May 27, 2010 and was buried on July 21, 2010 at Capital Memorial Gardens, 3700 Prince of Wales Drive, Ottawa. His grave’s location is Lot 43, Space C3 – Singles.


Personal note: having been acquainted with Otto for over 30 years I did not want to let his death go unnoticed. He was a solitary and private man, but he deeply valued personal relationships, and had much human insight. One of his preferred topics was to share his knowledge of South American history, culture and economy. He had a vast culture and could discuss many topics with competence and fervent interest. There was no short topic when talking to him  In his later years he talked a lot about the relationship between the dead and the living and discussed how various cultures related with the dead.


Some people who knew Otto will see this note, and may wish to add their recollections to mine. Please do not hesitate to write me at: -  en Français, Español, Portugués, English, Danska …


[Afterthought: I was surprised by the several people who saw this memorial and reacted to it. These are people who independently searched Otto’s name on the web and found it. Some wrote the messages you will see below; some sent photos and information that I have tried to summarize above).




Received on March 29, 2011 from his former University of Ottawa colleague Dr. Emmanuel Apel, now in Paris: Otto was a great and cultured man, as well as an excellent professor, much appreciated by his students. He was always very generous with the time spent trying to help his students. I knew him well as a colleague from 1971 until the mid-1990s.  Sad to learn that he is no longer with us.


Received on April 21, 2011,  from Prof. Amer Al-Roubaie, Dean, College of Business and Finance, Ahlia University, Manama, Bahrain: I am very saddened to learn about the death of Otto Gustavo Wadsted. I was one of his students at the University of Ottawa in late 1970s. He was excellent professor and highly committed to his students. He was a man of great integrity and ethics as well as a man of knowledge and wisdom. Although he was my professor for a short period, he was in constant touch with me all these years until his death. This is indeed a reflection of his outstanding personality not only as a concerned teacher, but also as a close friend. His memories with me will remain forever. May his soul rest in peace!


Received on July 3, 2011 from Mrs. Anita van der Linden, New York City: My mother Betty Yu-Lin Ho has this picture of Otto G. Wadsted from 1964 in her apartment in New York City.  My mom is very sorry to hear that he died. She typed his thesis for him back in the 1960's when he was at Columbia University. She thought he was a very intelligent man.


Received on August 20, 2011 from Mr. Bent Ritz Petersen, Denmark: Otto Gustavo Wadsted and I go back 66 years to 1945.  Denmark was a free country again after the German occupation. Otto had been admitted in the catholic school that I attended as a protestant. It had a reputation for discipline exercised by German Jesuit priests. 

Otto was newly arrived from Rome, and on his first school day he was introduced to this class of boys of his own age. He was invited to sit next to me sharing my double desk, and his eyes were full of expectation. He did not take long to convince everybody that he possessed sound knowledge of mathematics and superior English, also fluent written and spoken Danish. He demonstrated his competence in a pleasant, leaning back style, and won everybody's admiration. 

We spent time together after school, and sometimes I would accompany him to the pension where he lived with his mother. We communicated in English, and Otto was full of fun and even mischief. Our ways separated as Otto and his mother went to Brazil, but we maintained correspondence for a couple of years.  When I saw Otto again, we were young men. He came to Copenhagen, and his father, whom I had met on a previous occasion, had made arrangements with my father for a surprise party. 

His visits were sweet and short, but within a week we would become school boys again. I remember two more visits - both of them unannounced, but then we lost contact. His death has left a void. Honour to his name. 


Received on November 29, 2011 from Mr. Byron Nutting, CFO Jazz Resources Inc.  Vancouver BC. Canada. I was a student of Prof. Wadsted at the University of Ottawa. I have many fond recollections of him. I took his course in mathematical economics. It was very important for my career to pass this course. During the final exam I did not think I would pass. I was having problems with some algebra. While he was passing by I mentioned this to him. He had a look at what I was doing and said that it looked ok. Thus encouraged I continued with my algebra and managed to pass the course. I am forever grateful for his kindness.


Received on December 8, 2011 from Prof. David J. Murrell, University of New Brunswick. I was a struggling fourth and fifth year student in economics at University of Ottawa. I was fortunate enough to take two courses from Professor  Wadsted at the time, and to work as a teaching assistant for him. He was a very thorough and careful professor -- who demanded a lot from us. At the time I had good grades, but was financially impoverished.  Through this he gave me encouragement to continue. I might add that one term paper I did for him led me to construct elementary GDP estimates  for the province of Saskatchewan -- work I later extended as research at the Conference Board of Canada. Sorry to hear of his death.


Received on Jan 24, 2012 from Stéphane Gagnon, Professeur dans le département des Sciences de l’administration, Université du Québec en Outaouais. I was blessed on many levels to befriend Prof. Wadsted, a true humanist with unconditional kindness and affection. I took his International Trade elective at University of Ottawa in fall 1990. Along with fellow classmates (some of them magna and summa cum laude), we often stayed after 10pm until midnight to listen to his numerous stories about political economy and history. He always made us feel as if we were at Oxford, sharing a cup of his famous thermos and cookies, while filling our gaps with empirical evidence to back the equations he had just presented in class.

His unique pedagogical approach continues to inspire me today, and in spite of its implicit cost I remain committed to his encyclopedic approach to social sciences. We stayed in touch after graduation and I met him every year or so (until 2005) for coffee or dinner (he gathered alumni a few times at the Yang Sheng). He always shared knowledge and insight, taking genuine interest in my journey as grad student, professional, and man (he met all of my life partners except my present one).

Prof. Wadsted was a very special man who lived a humble, discrete, but fulfilling life. He was a philosopher in the classical sense, with enlightening lessons blending theory and human experience.

As I read others’ comments on this page, I am touched that we all share the same feeling about him and his passing. His memory will live long with us, and his teachings too. God bless his soul.


Reçu  le 20 février 2012 de la part de Gilles Grenier, Professeur, Département de science économique, Université d'Ottawa. J'ai été le collègue d'Otto Wadsted au Département de science économique de l'Université d'Ottawa de 1981 à 1996; j'ai aussi été le directeur de ce département de 1985 à 1989.  Otto Wadsted  était un professeur avec des habitudes bien particulières : il vivait la nuit et dormait le jour. Les seules fois où on le voyait étaient lors des assemblées départementales, qui avaient lieu trois ou quatre fois par année. Sinon, tous les échanges avec lui se faisaient par correspondance. Une secrétaire qui a été à l'emploi du Département pendant plusieurs années m'a avoué ne l'avoir jamais vu. Les relations entre Otto Wadsted et l'Université d'Ottawa ont parfois été difficiles. Pendant longtemps, il a refusé de fournir à l'Université son adresse et son numéro de téléphone à la maison, malgré les nombreuses demandes. Pour sa défense, il disait qu'il ne voulait pas être dérangé durant la journée étant donné qu'il dormait. Une autre fois, lorsque le Département devait changer de locaux, il n'a pas accepté le nouveau bureau qui lui avait été alloué et ses effets personnels sont demeurés dans des boîtes pendant des années. Il avait plaidé en vain de garder son ancien bureau, mais l'étage au complet avait été attribué à une autre unité scolaire. Comme directeur du Département, j'ai eu à gérer diverses situations conflictuelles qui le concernaient. Cependant, lorsque j'avais l'occasion de lui parler en personne, j'étais toujours impressionné par son amabilité et sa gentillesse. Je me souviens en particulier de la fois où, suite au décès tragique d'une collègue avec qui il avait eu des relations particulièrement tumultueuses, il m'avait téléphoné pour me faire part de sa grande tristesse. Il était vraiment ému et affecté par ce décès, et comme il était très croyant, il avait fait célébrer une messe à sa mémoire. Enfin, Otto Wadsted était un excellent enseignant, comme plusieurs de ses anciens étudiants en ont témoigné.