Home 2017 Races R.I.P. Professor Steve Yetiv of Old Dominion University

R.I.P. Professor Steve Yetiv of Old Dominion University

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Sad news, somewhat on a personal front, that I just heard about today — Old Dominion University Professor Steve Yetiv, a leading expert on world oil markets, energy security, the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, etc., and the 2012 recipient of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia  — passed away, suddenly, at the age of 53, apparently from a major heart attack.

This news particularly jumped out at me for one main reason: I’ve known Steve for over a decade, since he first contacted me for information on world oil markets in the early 2000s when I worked as an economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). After I left EIA, Steve and I co-authored several articles, including Why the Saudis aren’t lifting a finger to ease oil prices (Christian Science Monitor, February 2008); Think big on clean energy (NY Daily News, December 2009); Is an oil-induced recession on the way? Probably not (Bay Area News Group, January 2008); A Strategic Shift in Saudi Oil Policy? (Journal of Energy Security, December 2011); and Why Energy Forecasting Goes Wildly Wrong (Journal of Energy Security, October 2013). I also was the frequent recipient of emails from Steve asking for feedback on his draft articles and books.

Having met Steve for drinks and/or dinner on several occasions, plus written the articles with him mentioned above, I can say that I liked and respected him a great deal. He also was a lot of fun to be around – great sense of humor, plus of course a brilliant mind.  Since I found out about his passing earlier today, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in this view by any stretch of the imagination. For instance, Steve was highly respected/loved by his ODU students, who wrote feedback like:

  • “I have never had an instructor here at ODU who demonstrates greater enthusiasm, humor, or compassion.”
  • “Mr. Yetiv is an excellent teacher. He has made this class worth taking. He is by far my best teacher at the University and one of the best teachers I’ve had to date.”
  • “Dr. Yetiv is the best instructor I have had in my four years at this University. He makes me appreciate the value of education. I have enjoyed his class discussions the most. He is a great asset to the department and the university.”
  • “I cannot consider any way in which this course can be improved short of the perfection that it is.”
  • “ODU is blessed to have Dr. Yetiv. He is a very intelligent and effective instructor. I have learned so much from all his classes. He is kind and fair to all kinds of people. I would take his classes again if I was not going to graduate. I am proud to say that I have been a student of Dr. Yetiv. I have learned so much about interna­tional politics form him. He is organized, punctual, intelligent, courteous, fair, friendly and helpful when we need clarification in our lessons. Dr. Yetiv is one of the best professors ODU has.”

It goes on and on like that; the type of feedback I’m sure any professor – or really anyone – would love to receive.  Not that the feedback from Steve’s students surprises me in any way; I just don’t remember ever having looked at their comments before today.

By the way, I hadn’t heard from Steve since late 2017, and I found out the news of his passing from social media (where else?); for instance, see here, here and here. Per the latter post, I certainly can’t argue with any of this about Steve:

He had a fantastic talent for weaving together a thoughtful and skillful approach to his field with great humor. He was a great mind. He’ll be missed, but his contribution to his students’ lives and the world of international affairs is lasting. Cheers to Steve for a tremendous life. 

I’d simply add that we’ve lost a top thinker, at far too young an age, on world energy markets, U.S. national security, the Middle East, international relations, etc. Plus, we’ve lost someone who clearly was a leading professor here in Virginia and specifically at Old Dominion University. The news of Steve’s death, in addition to saddening me, also surprised me greatly, as Steve’s last op-ed was published just a few weeks ago in the Virginian-Pilot, and I hadn’t heard any news about him having had serious health problems. I guess that’s how life can be, but still…sigh. My deepest condolences to all of Steve’s friends, family, colleagues and students (past and present). May you rest in peace, my friend.

P.S. Weird coincidence – turns out Steve and I both lived in the small town of Newington, Connecticut for a few years when we were kids, but we didn’t remember each other from those days (we went to different elementary schools, so we probably wouldn’t have run into each other). Small world.

P.P.S. I just saw this, posted on March 22 by radio host (WHRV in Norfolk) Cathy Lewis: “Feeling so sad about the unexpected death of ODU professor Steve Yetiv, a guest on our show and an expert in oil and the Middle East. Dana Heller reports he had a major heart attack two weeks ago and died yesterday. He was so smart and a lovely man.”