UW-Madison land tenure expert Thiesenhusen dead at 68

William C. Thiesenhusen, emeritus professor of agricultural economics and agricultural journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former director of the university’s Land Tenure Center, died the weekend of June 25-26 at his residence near Madison. He was 68 years old.

Thiesenhusen was born Feb. 12, 1936 in Waukesha, Wis. and grew up on a farm near Muskego, Wis. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and journalism and a master’s degree in agricultural journalism from the UW-Madison, followed by a master’s of public administration degree from Harvard University. He earned his doctorate in agricultural economics from the UW-Madison in 1965.

Thiesenhusen joined the departments of Agricultural Economics (now Agricultural and Applied Economics) and Agricultural Journalism (now Life Sciences Communication) in 1965, and was appointed to the Land Tenure Center that year. He retired and was named emeritus professor in 1998.

Thiesenhusen devoted his career to teaching and research on issues of agrarian reform and economic development in Latin America and elsewhere.

He lived in Santiago, Chile from 1963 to 1965, conducting field studies for the Land Tenure Center as part of his Ph.D. research. He was involved with the center throughout his career, serving as executive assistant from 1962 to 1963, and as director from 1971 to 1975 and again from 1994 to 1998. The center is an international development research and assistance program that works in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America on issues of land tenure and land use, agrarian reform, and rural development.

Thiesenhusen taught two popular courses, Economic Problems of Underdeveloped Areas, and Land Tenure and the Latin American Peasant. He was a frequent speaker at seminars and conferences throughout the United States. He published extensively on the problems of land control, poverty and economic development in Latin America, and authored four books.

Thiesenhusen chaired the economics committee of the Fulbright Scholar Program at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and served on numerous departmental and UW-Madison committees. He served regularly as a consultant for the World Bank, United Nations agencies, and other international organizations.

He is survived by his children, Kay of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gail of Fitchburg; a grandson, Brandon; mother Myrtle of Madison; brothers John (Pat) of Sun Prairie, Art (Bonnie) of Waukesha, and Charles (Earl Charvet) of Kansas City, Mo.; and numerous nephews and a niece. He was preceded in death by his father, Arthur H.; and son, James. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, July 1, 2005, at Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, 1501 Gilbert Road, Madison. Visitation will be held on Friday from 9:30 a.m. until the time of service at the church. Burial will be private at Forest Hill Cemetery.