What stood out about Campbell McConnell wasn't his immense knowledge of economics, his colleague, Jim Schmidt, said this week.

It was the kindness that "Mac" expressed to everyone he met.

"He was just a gracious person and didn't hesitate to lend a helping hand," said Schmidt, a UNL professor. "If you were having a little bit of a down stretch, he'd be first in line to give you words of encouragement."

McConnell, who taught economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for nearly four decades, died Saturday at the age of 90.

His work, however, stretched well beyond the large auditorium in the former College of Business Administration where he taught so many of his courses after joining UNL in 1953.

His textbook, "Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies," has seen over 20 editions since its initial publication by McGraw-Hill in 1960. As the best-selling book in its field, McConnell's work has reached millions of students, spanning generations.

Bill Walstad, another colleague of McConnell's, has authored study guides for "Economics" since its 11th edition in the mid-1980s. He said the book's popularity came in part because of its easy accessibility for the average student.

"That just gave it a lot of appeal around the country," Walstad said. "It was very balanced in the way that it presented things and was comprehensive in how it covered different topics and issues."

Over the years, "Economics" was adapted for the economies of other countries, including Canada and India, and was translated into Italian, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

The book's Russian translation coincided with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and became a valuable tool for those interested in how market economies work.

McConnell won multiple awards while teaching at UNL, including the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1962 and the James Lake Academic Freedom Award in 1991.

Scott Fuess, chair of the economics department at UNL, said McConnell ranks among the field's most influential teachers in the second half of the 20th century.

"He's everything a University of Nebraska faculty member should be," Fuess said.

Following his retirement in 1990, McConnell remained active as an emeritus professor and donor to the university.

But McConnell never let his success get the better of him, Fuess added.

"A lot of people would have fame run to their heads and be high-maintenance," he said. "You could not meet a more down-to-earth and likable person."

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McConnell served for more than 35 years on the board of directors of First Federal Lincoln Bank, which in 2002 became TierOne Bank. The bank failed in June 2010 and McConnell was later named as a defendant, along with several other TierOne executives and board members, in lawsuits related to the bank’s collapse.

An Illinois native, McConnell earned his Bachelor of Arts from Cornell College in 1950 and graduate degrees from the universities of Illinois and Iowa.

Cornell awarded McConnell an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1973 and its Distinguished Achievement Award in 1994.

Schmidt said McConnell's handprint has covered a "wide spectrum of the profession" of economics.

"He has affected millions of students, and indirectly, their careers, their families, the business they're involved in," he said. "His impact is immeasurable."

No visitation or public service is planned, but memorials are suggested to the McConnell/McGraw-Hill Scholarship Fund in care of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

McConnell was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Marilyn. Survivors include three children and a brother.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.


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