URBANA – James Economy, 92, from Urbana passed away peacefully on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 12:05 p.m. at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
He was born on March 28, 1929 in Detroit, the son of Peter and Vassiliki (Bessie Lalousi) Economy and brother of George. He received his BS in Chemistry from Wayne State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.
He leaves behind his almost 60-year-old wife Anastasia; four children, Elizabeth, Peter, Katherine, and Melissa; three sons-in-law, David Wah, Farouc Jaffer and Glenn Mathias; eight grandchildren, Alexander, Nicholas, Eleni, James, Benjamin, Nicholas, Maximillian and Lillian; a sister-in-law, Carol; two nieces, Georgeann and Alyssa; and two nephews, Peter and Christopher.
Jim, an internationally renowned polymer scientist, as many friends and colleagues called him, was Professor and Head of the Department of Material Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois from 1989 to 2000, researching and supervising students. After his full retirement from the university in 2011, he remained active in two companies he co-founded, Serionix and ATSP Innovations. At the time of his death, he was researching possible new materials for inexpensive living space.
Prior to his time in Illinois, Jim was director of polymer science and technology at IBM’s research division in San Jose, California, where his group was known worldwide for scientific and technological achievements. He joined IBM from the Carborundum Company, where he was Head of Chemistry. During his time there, his research was selected 14 times for the IR-100 Award, which recognizes outstanding technical developments in American industry. From 1965 to 1972, his group developed more than 20 new materials with commercial potential and brought some of them to market (at least four of which are still available today).
Over the course of his career, he has received numerous awards in recognition of his scientific achievements, including the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists, the ACS Phillips Medal, the Schoelkopf Medal, the Herman F. Mark Award, and the Paul J. Flory Polymer Research Award for outstanding contributions on polymer science and engineering. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jim was a die-hard optimist. His children and grandchildren benefited greatly from his positive energy and consistent support. He cheered them on, but was also there to help them overcome their defeats. He kept an adventurous spirit throughout his life. He and Stacy traveled extensively, and later particularly enjoyed family outings with all of his children and grandchildren.
He never stopped learning and his interests were wide-ranging. He liked to discuss history, music and nature and was very interested in politics. A lover of classical music and opera, he was also an accomplished pianist with a wide range of favorite composers. After retiring at the age of 82, he and Stacy became integral parts of the OLLI courses, where he enjoyed participating in many lively discussions.
The next day was always the best day for Jim Economy.
The tour takes place on November 12th from 5pm to 7pm at the Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy. The funeral will take place on Saturday, November 13th at 10:30 a.m. in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Three Hierarchs in Champaign.
Instead of flowers, memorials can be dedicated to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts or the CU Symphony Orchestra. Expressions of condolences can be made at morganmemorialhome.com.