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John G. Edwards

Economic forecaster Schwer dies after battle with cancer

4 December 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Keith Schwer, 66, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas died Thursday morning of esophageal cancer.

The economics professor served as the key forecaster on the Southern Nevada economy during decades of boom times and the more recent bust.

"If anybody wanted to know about Nevada, you went to him first," said Paul Polzin, retired director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

Schwer is past president of the Association for University Business and Economic Research, and he received the group's top award and served as a mentor to peers at economic research centers around the country.

In Las Vegas, he was best known for conducting the semiannual Economic Outlook conferences, which routinely attracted 300 business and community leaders. He has recently been helping prepare for the next conference, which will be held as planned at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 16 at M Resort, colleagues said.

Schwer also helped prepare the Las Vegas Perspective, an economics study overview published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and others.

Monica Caruso, former business reporter for the Review-Journal, said Schwer was the first Las Vegas economist who was well-known outside Nevada.

"He brought so much enthusiasm, and he was anxious to educate people about economics," she said. "He broke the stereotype of economists being very staid."

Schwer directed the economics center for 23 years, turning it into a key source of data and a provider of feasibility studies for business ventures.

"Keith Schwer was the mainstay of economic analysis for years in Las Vegas," UNLV President Neal Smatresk said. "His passing leaves us all bereft of his wisdom and expertise. Our campus community is profoundly saddened by his loss and our hearts go out to his family."

Dennis Smith, publisher of Home Builders Research and a friend of Schwer's for 20 years, sometimes disagreed with him about forecasts and analyses.

"We always ended up laughing," Smith said. "It was just his way. He had a big heart. He loved Las Vegas."

Schwer continued to work after he learned in July that he had cancer. He attended out-of-state conferences with the help of a cane as recently as October and continued to speak on behalf of the center even while at home during his illness.

He was attending a business economics conference at the Marriott at the World Trade Center when terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers in 2001.

Tom Witt, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University recalls that Schwer ran and walked with several conference attendees to Manhattan. He comforted two members of the group who feared for their wives, who were still at the hotel.

Schwer "was able to, from my perspective, to keep us going," Witt said.

Bob Potts, assistant director of the UNLV economics center and Schwer's associate for 20 years, said: "He was a guy who always cared about people. Keith was always a great, fun guy, and he always did a good job of pointing us in the right direction."

Schwer grew up in Tulsa, Okla., and earned a bachelor of business of administration in statistics and a master's degree in economics from the University of Oklahoma. He earned a doctorate in economics at the University of Maryland in 1975 and did postdoctoral study at the University of Washington, Brown University and the University of Chicago.

Schwer worked his way up from assistant professor to head of the division of business and management at Norwich University in Vermont before accepting a position at UNLV in 1986. He was a member of the forecast panel for the Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Survivors include his wife, Kaye; three daughters, Nancy Archambault, Amanda Schwer and Michelle Nicholl; and three grandchildren, Sarah and Jack Nicholl and Abbey Archambault.

John G. Edwards
John G. Edwards