Obituary: Janet Goodrich Chapman / Specialist in Soviet economics

May 26, 1922 - Dec. 5, 2012

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Janet Goodrich Chapman, a specialist in Soviet economics who was instrumental in the founding of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, died of cardiac arrest at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., on Dec. 5. She was 90.

Her daughter, H. Perry Chapman, said her mother's research into wages and consumer prices in the Soviet Union exposed weaknesses with communism. She said her mother also served as an important role model in a field where there were few women.

"She would talk about going to professional meetings where she would be one of a very few if not the only woman there," said Perry Chapman, a Garrett Park, Md. resident who teaches art history at the University of Delaware.

Bob Donnorummo, retired director of Pitt's Russian and Eastern European Studies Center, said Ms. Chapman had to wrestle with problems concerning the accuracy and credibility of Soviet economic statistics. She was able to separate the truth from exaggerations, he said.

"Nobody could rely on Soviet data. It was almost like you were an economist, but you were also reading tea leaves," Mr. Donnorummo said.

The daughter of an economic historian who taught at Columbia University and Pitt, Ms. Chapman earned a bachelor's degree with high honors in economics from Swarthmore College in 1943. She married John C. Chapman, another Swarthmore graduate.

While her husband was stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Okinawa during the war, Ms. Chapman worked at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. She later earned a doctoral degree from Columbia.

Ms. Chapman was a consultant to the Rand Corp. from 1949 to 1969, where she published "Real Wages in Russia Since 1928," based on her doctoral dissertation and subsequent research. She was a faculty member at Pitt from 1964 to 1992, serving as chair of the economics department from 1978 to 1985. She directed the program on Russian and Eastern European Studies from 1965 to 1983.

Ms. Chapman was awarded an honorary degree from Poland's Cracow Academy of Economics in 1990.

After retiring in 1992, Ms. Chapman and her husband moved to Lewes, Del. Perry Chapman said they travelled constantly, not only to Russia and Eastern Europe, but to China, India and other places.

Her husband, a long-time political science professor at Pitt, died in 2008. Ms. Chapman subsequently moved to an assisted living home in Bethesda.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two grandchildren, Alexandra Chapman Niemczewski and Martin Perry Niemczewski of Garrett Park.

Perry Chapman said her mother donated her body to Georgetown University Medical School.

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Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.


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