In Memory

Fred Ribe

From the Washington Post, April 5, 1999:



Frederick Crowell Ribe, 48, an economist who was deputy chief of the Africa department at the International Monetary Fund before retiring in September because of health reasons, died of cancer April 2 at his home in Chevy Chase.

He worked for the Congressional Budget Office after moving to the Washington area in 1980. He spent the last five years at the IMF, where he was in charge of reviewing fiscal accounts and preparing financial programs.

At the Congressional Budget Office, he was an assistant director for fiscal affairs. Mr. Ribe was born in Chicago and raised in Los Alamos, N.M. He graduated with honors from Swarthmore College in 1973, then spent a year as a research economist at the Brookings Institution. While attending Yale University, where he received a doctorate in economics in 1980, he was employed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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05/31/13 08:57 AM #1    

Martha King

I was in love with Fred Ribe.  That didn't really happen until our Senior year. We met as freshmen, and our bond then related to being "western kids," he from New Mexico and I from Wyoming. I can't remember how we really connected Senior year, but some of it had to do with his stint as editor of the Phoenix while I was a copy editor/headline writer. One of the most inspired gifts I ever gave anyone was to Fred -- a hard-bound book of all the copies of the Phoenix during his run, with an inscription on the cover that read "Fred Ribe, Editor-in-Chief." I had to find a bookbinder in the area and it cost a fortune on my meager income (i.e., whatever Eleanor and I made sorting virgin fruit flies in the genetics lab ... yes, at all hours day and night in spooky Martin Lab).

About March of our Senior year, Fred told me that he had told his father that he wanted to marry me some day (his father was on campus at the time giving a guest lecture on campus -- he was a nuclear physicist in Los Alamos). Not sure if I would have agreed -- afterall, I wanted to join the Peace Corps.  However, it was really nice to know.  Not long after that, Fred dumped me for another woman on campus, which devastated me. Even so, he cared enough to realize how distracted I was with finals coming up, that he sat with me in McCabe while I studied to help me concentrate.  Not sure it worked well, but it was very kind of him to do so. A few years later, he married a lovely woman from Columbia, had two kids (very close to my own kids' ages) and was a successful economist at the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Budget Office and at the International Monetary Fund. His wife worked at the World Bank – one of those “power couples.”

We connected again as friends after I learned that he had melanoma and was receiving experimental treatment at NIH. All petty things were forgiven and I felt privileged to be his friend in his remaining months. I understood melanoma because my ex-husband had major surgery for it when our son was just 9 months old. I take credit for noticing the melanoma on my husband's back (nearly the same spot Fred’s was) after reading a news article that described it. After that, I was brazen enough to tease Fred that if he had married me, perhaps I would have noticed his in time too.

One thing I regret is that Fred didn’t attend our 25th reunion in 1998, after thinking he might. I encouraged him several times to attend -- he didn't because he knew his prognosis was bleak and was afraid that his presence might be a downer. I hope that any of our other classmates who might have a similar feeling will cast it aside and join in our community. I hope and believe that we are able to support each other, through thick and thin.

Here's to Fred! 

06/11/13 01:15 PM #2    

David Johnston

I was very close to Fred Ribe from the time we got to know each other in early 1972 until the end of his life.  Fred asked me to write an article for the Phoenix (reporting on a visiting speaker), I obliged, he liked the article a lot, and we became friends then and there.  When I was studying overseas and he was doing his Ph.D. at Yale, I sometimes visited him on my way to and from the U.S.  When my wife, Wendy, and I flew to New York after being married in London in 1976, Fred drove to Kennedy airport to pick us up.  Wendy and I attended the small ceremony in New Haven when Fred married his wife, Helena.  We (the two couples) visited each other many times over the years after that.  I visited him one last time in Maryland in February 1999, about six weeks before he died.  He seemed almost incredulous when I assured him that I was there because I wanted to be, not just because I thought I should be, but my assurances were absolutely truthful.


Fred was one of only two or three friends from Swarthmore with whom I kept in touch continuously after college until I began re-establishing contact with a few others in the 1990s.  We were born just two days apart from each other.  For about a quarter of a century, I considered him my closest male friend.  Fred was shy, but very smart and a very accomplished practicing economist.  He was a very considerate man, a good listener, and a great husband and father to two children, Isabella and Matthew.  Like Martha King, I encouraged him to attend our 25th reunion in 1998, but he demurred.  I wish he hadn’t.


Fred left life over 14 years ago, but I still think of him often.  I am in occasional contact with Helena and have seen her a few times either in the Washington, D.C. area or at our place in New York City, where she has stayed overnight with us at least once.  I enjoy sharing notes with Martha and others about him from time to time.  He was much loved, and although those who were closest to him have moved on beautifully, he is still missed.

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