Robert Hessen, loving husband, father and grandfather, loyal friend and insightful scholar, died on April 15, 2024. He was 87 years old.

A historian specializing in American economic and business history, Bob joined Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in 1974. He was a Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the time of his passing. As a Cold War academic defending free markets and individual liberty, his work focused on the demonstrable advantages of capitalism and the utility of corporate structures as mechanisms for organizing human affairs and scarce resources. Throughout his career, Bob also taught a highly regarded course on the History of American Business at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

The grandson of immigrants, Bob was raised in the Bronx, and later Flushing, New York. He received his BA from Queens College, his MA from Harvard University, and his PhD from Columbia University, where he taught in the Graduate School of Business until 1974. During the 1968 student protests at Columbia, he authored the article that first brought him to national attention: "Campus or Battleground? Columbia Is a Warning to All American Universities" which was featured on the front page of Barron’s.

Bob was the author of two books, Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab was published by Oxford University Press in 1975, and In Defense of the Corporation (now in its 5th printing) which was published by the Hoover Institution Press in 1979. He edited Does Big Business Rule America? (Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1981), Berlin Alert: The Memoirs and Reports of Truman Smith (Hoover, 1984), and Breaking with Communism: The Intellectual Odyssey of Bertram D. Wolfe (Hoover, 1990). He was general editor of the Hoover Archival Documentaries, a multivolume series publishing historically significant materials from the archives of the Hoover Institution. He lectured frequently to business and academic audiences on government regulation of industry and testified before congressional committees.

A close associate of Ayn Rand, Bob was a co-author, along with Alan Greenspan, of Rand’s book “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.” In his capacity as her longtime personal assistant, Bob was responsible for typing many of her handwritten articles and essays for publication. His emerging instincts as a historian and archivist led him to preserve those manuscript pages with Rand’s permission. The extensive collection of original documents was sold at auction in 1998.

Bob’s articles, commentaries and reviews appeared in many scholarly and popular publications, including the New York Times, Barron's, Business History Review, Labor History, the Hastings Law Journal, and the Journal of Law and Economics. He was featured alongside Rupert Murdoch in a front page article on “Capitalism’s Surprise Converts: Former Socialists Among Free Market’s Top Backers” in Investor’s Business Daily, November 20, 1997.

Bob is survived by his wife of almost 29 years, Karin Bricker, who was with him at his passing. Bob’s first marriage, to the late Beatrice Minkus Hessen, lasted 26 years until her death in 1989 and produced two devoted children, Laurie and John, who survive him. Bob was a loving stepfather to Devi Bricker and the late David Bricker, and the beloved grandfather of five. He was a profoundly kind, decent and thoughtful man, a lover of books, music and movies, a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. He passed at Stanford Hospital following a period of illness. 

The family is planning a memorial celebration for later this year.

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