Herman Stekler, a giant in the field of forecasting, has passed away [4 September 2018]. He was known for insisting that “the cost of a recession is so great that a forecaster should never miss one. Some people argue that turning points are unpredictable. I disagree. I have never had trouble predicting recessions. In fact, I have predicted n+x of the last n recessions.”
A personal reflection on Herman and his contribution
I think the first time I met Herman was at the Philadelphia forecasting symposium in 1983. I recall approaching him and much to his subsequent amusement, I anointed him even then as one of the founders of forecasting as a discipline, one of the old established researchers. And he really was one of the founding fathers of the subject, linking to Geoffrey Moore, Victor Zarnowitz and Arnold Zellner. Mine was an accurate observation for his forecasting life in print started in 1959 following on his PhD at MIT. And his response and disavowal demonstrated his modesty. He was a long-standing member of the board of associate editors going back to the early years of the International Journal of Forecasting. And crucially he always engaged with issues concerning the direction of the journal: his interests were never narrow. I got to know him better when we worked together on a paper published in the Journal of Macroeconomics, surveying the successes and more often the failures of macroeconomic forecasts. It was a one-off collaboration but productive, as it was followed by a workshop in Leipzig organized with Ullrich Heilemann as host, and a special section of the IJF on ‘The future of macroeconomic forecasting’. His commitment to research, both his own and through students and colleagues was outstanding and these were honoured in a special section of the IJF in 2015 based on a conference held in Washington in 2012. We will all miss him, both for his contributions, but also for his gentle but firm and warm personality.