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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Walter Rybeck ’49

Walter Rybeck, age 96, died from pneumonia on May 3, 2021 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD.

Mr. Rybeck advocated for economic justice, particularly regarding affordable housing, job creation and infrastructure funding. Tools for accomplishing these objectives, his philosophy and significant aspects of his life are discussed in his 2011 book, “Re-Solving the Economic Puzzle.” (See details below.)

Rybeck’s early career was in journalism. He funded a trip to South America in the late 1940s by writing a column for several West Virginia newspapers. A highlight of that trip was getting stranded in the Galapagos Islands for several months when it was inhabited only by a few pioneering families.

Rybeck was born in Wheeling, WV. He attended West Virginia University for two years before joining the army during World War II. After the War, he resumed his studies at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. An accomplished pianist, Rybeck accompanied an aspiring singer, Coretta Scott King ’51.

After graduation, he worked as a reporter for the Columbus Citizen. He became an editor for the Dayton Daily News. In Dayton, Rybeck met and married Erika Schulhof. In the early 1960s, Rybeck became the Washington Bureau Chief for Cox Newspapers.

In 1967, as an Assistant Director for the National Commission on Urban Problems, Rybeck worked with former Senator Paul Douglas investigating the roots of urban decay. Thereafter, he became the editorial director at the Urban Institute, an assistant to Congressman Henry Reuss (Wisconsin) and Congressman William Coyne (Pennsylvania) before creating his own consultancy, The Center for Public Dialog.

Rybeck became involved in the communities where he lived. In Wheeling, WV, he was heavily involved in nature and folk dance programs at Oglebay Park. In Fairmont, WV, Rybeck helped organize a symphony. In Dayton, he helped organize a natural history museum. At Riderwood Village (a retirement community in Silver Spring, MD), Rybeck served on the Performing Arts Council.

Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Erika Schulhof Rybeck of Silver Spring; two sons, Rick Rybeck (Washington, DC) and Alex Rybeck (New York City), daughter-in-law Ellen Czaplewski, a niece (Blanche Rybeck) and several nephews (Charles, Dan, Abe and Ted Rybeck).

A memorial service will be held at Riderwood Village, date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the charity of your choice.

Mr. Rybeck was partial to organizations that worked for social and economic justice, environmental preservation, aid to refugees, and in-depth journalism.

His book, “Re-solving the Economic Puzzle,” was summarized by Fred Foldvary: “In the richest nation on earth, people are mired in poverty. Food is produced on a vast scale, yet families go hungry. Homeless men and women huddle in doorways of boarded-up housing. A deep-rooted cause of this inequality, the author reveals, lies in an injustice that permeates the economic system of America and the world, an injustice that is as unquestioned today as slavery once was.

“Not a technical book, the author illustrates concepts, issues, and policies through episodes from his rich life experiences in journalism and public service, giving new insights and slants on the work ethic, land speculation, the housing bubble, property rights, and legally accepted injustices.

“This book is truly one of the best introductions to real-world economics that I have come across… This is indeed a book that should be read by every economist, every student, and every person who has been puzzled and troubled by our economic woes. It would be wonderful if a policymaker happens to read this book and actually implements its solution, but otherwise, the people should know that there are economic solutions, and that it is politics, not economics, that blocks universal prosperity.”