Testimony by Renzo Orsi



Université de Bologne

È veramente una notizia che mi rattrista. Quando i grandi se ne vanno ti senti un po come orfano perché ti viene a mancare uno dei riferimenti su cui hai sempre contato, sia come scienziato che come uomo.


I got to know Jacques Drèze as a student in the Master's programme in economics in Leuven in 1973 when he was in charge of the econometrics seminar. The seminars were held at CORE in Heverlee, and there were only a few of us attending them, but we were very interested and eager to learn. I was immediately struck by his great availability and the encouragement he gave us, even though we were simply his students.

I later continued my studies with a PhD in Economics in Louvain-la-Neuve. Jacques was initially not my thesis director but he was very interested in the work I was developing and we frequently had the opportunity to discuss it, meetings favoured by the coffee breaks that took place in the lounge of the CORE, a formidable place to meet colleagues and have opportunities to discuss and compare ideas. The CORE is certainly one of Jacques's most important legacies, an open research centre that encourages encounters and exchanges between scholars from neighbouring disciplines that mostly develop separately in universities and that, on the contrary, at CORE find the ideal environment to complement and possibly integrate.

Among the lessons, direct and indirect, that I have learnt from attending Jacques on the various and numerous occasions that I have had at CORE, two of them I remember with deep pleasure. Jacques taught a basic course in statistics in the years in which I was following the master's degree, and although I was not a student of the course I was intrigued by the course notes and material, from which I could see a clear preference for a Bayesian type of approach to statistics, with clear reference to the idea of subjective probability in de Finetti's sense, an approach that he also followed in his contributions to econometrics, particularly those with Jean-François Richard. That is, the idea that the analysis of a phenomenon cannot be based solely on empirical evidence, but must also take into account information exogenous to the data, i.e. so-called a priori information.

Finally, I remember the surprise I had one Saturday morning, coming out of the supermarket where I had done some shopping, when I saw Jacques coming towards me and proposing to buy some pencils on which "Terre des Hommes" was written. He was accompanied by a group of young people with whom he was doing voluntary work for the non-governmental organisation 'Terre des Hommes', which provides aid and relief to suffering children. This unexpected encounter surprised me and showed a side of Jacques' personality that I did not know and that I appreciated very much. This is the memory I keep of Jacques, a brilliant researcher, generous and great of spirit, and at the same time engaged in social activities in favour of children.

Renzo Orsi