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Vernon Mason Briggs Jr.
June 29, 1937 ~ October 1, 2023 (age 86) 86 Years Old
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Vernon Mason Briggs, Jr., age 86, of Ithaca, NY passed away in Montour Falls NY after a short illness, on October 1, 2023. He was a teacher and an economist devoted to the study of public policies designed to advance the economic well-being of American workers and their families. He appreciated living in Ithaca with its beautiful natural environment. The lifestyle was supplemented by several weeks spent each Summer in the Rocky Mountains. There, at a cabin he helped to build, he could read, write, hike, and be with his family for an extended period surrounded by the outdoor splendor of Colorado.
Born June 29, 1937 in Georgetown, Washington, DC, he grew up in the Maryland suburbs; graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School; and served as President of his senior class (1955). He attended the University of Maryland at College Park where he continued to be active in student affairs – serving as President of the Student Government Association during his senior year (1959). He majored in economics; graduated with a B.S. degree; and was the recipient of the Algernon Sullivan Award given by the New York Southern Society to the undergraduate who best exemplified the principle of service to the University. Subsequently, he entered the graduate program at Michigan State University. There he studied labor economics; earned a M.A. degree; a Ph.D. degree; and taught as an Assistant Instructor of Economics. He was appointed an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin and was later promoted to Associate Professor and Professor. His teaching abilities were honored on several occasions – including being named the 1974 recipient of the Jean Holloway Award for Teaching Excellence, the highest such award given at the University at the time. Also, at the initiative of his students, he was given an honorific commission as “Admiral in the Texas Navy” by the Governor of Texas, Preston Smith, in 1971. He co-authored a national study that led to the opening of apprenticeship training opportunities for African Americans, Hispanics and women who had been largely excluded by most of the nation’s craft unions. He also participated in an extensive study of southern rural labor markets and of Hispanic employment in the Southwest. He became involved with Cesar Chavez’s efforts in 1966 to organize farm workers in South Texas. This episode exposed him to the adverse impact of mass immigration and border labor policies on the economic well-being of low income Chicano workers in the Rio Grande Valley. Subsequently, he expanded this regional interest in the subject to include the human resource effects of all of the various forms of immigration policies on the entire American labor force. In 1978, Vernon joined the faculty of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY as a Professor. There he continued his research and teaching in the area of human resource economics and public policy. He was a frequent witness at congressional and state legislative hearings, national commission meetings and public forums. He was a consultant to numerous governmental agencies at the federal and state levels. He also served on the editorial boards of numerous professional economics journals. He was a longtime member of the National Council on Employment Policy as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Immigration Studies both located in Washington DC. He achieved emeritus professor status from Cornell in 2007. Locally, Vernon was a member of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Vernon is survived by his wife, Martijna, of 52 years. She is a linguist and teacher who also guided Vernon through his transition from writing with pencils on yellow pads into the digital age. They have two sons, Vernon III and Kees, who have provided them with four loving grandchildren and a brother, Donald. His sister, Carol Millen and brother, Robert predeceased him. An extended family gathering in his memory and his honor will be held in a mountain setting. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be given to the Center for Immigration Studies:
1629 K Street N.W., Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 466-8185
Fax: (202) 466-8076
or to a charity of your choice.