Esmael Adibi, a Chapman University professor and a respected economic forecaster, died Friday after suffering complications from a stroke. He was 63.
To businessmen, journalists, real estate agents and anyone else who paid attention to the state economy, Adibi was known as the expert who made economic complexities comprehensible — and even funny.
During Chapman University's annual economic forecasts, one of the longest-running in the country, he would joke about how the economy, like his hairline, was entering a recession. He pointed out the inflation in his stomach and depression in his facial expression.
Before each live presentation, he usually tested his jokes on his son Keeya, who said he rarely had positive feedback to give.
"I'd tell him, I don't think anyone's going to laugh at this." Keeya said. "Then I'd hear people laughing during the talk, and I'd be speechless."
Ever the forecaster, Adibi would ask Keeya how many people had laughed in the seats around him, and try to extrapolate the success of each joke from Keeya's estimates.
Adibi came to the U.S. from Iran in 1974 to obtain an MBA at Chapman University, where he met current university President Jim Doti, a professor at the time. Adibi was one of Doti's most "perceptive and gifted" researchers, Doti wrote in a letter to the campus Friday.
Adibi got his master's in economics from Cal State Fullerton and earned his doctorate from Claremont Graduate University. He went on to become an economics professor at Chapman and Doti's closest friend. The two men co-wrote an econometrics textbook together and ran the university's economic forecasts.
"It's really difficult to imagine my life or that of the university without him. The power of his personality, wisdom, and intellect was so much a part of our community," wrote Doti, who declined to comment because he was grieving the loss of his best friend.
Adibi was one of Chapman University's most visible figures, Chancellor Daniele Struppa said. He was named a member of the California Treasurer's Council of Economic Advisors and served on the board of directors for the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, a not-for-profit banking service for teachers. Within the university, he had a genius for demystifying complex economic models in the classroom and mentored younger faculty members in his spare time.
"He was very good to me when I joined the university," Struppa said. "He made me feel like I was an old friend."
Adibi's generosity with his time and advice made him a trusted voice for businessmen, investors and especially journalists. His name appears in more than 500 articles from Times archives, where his measured opinions narrated the California economy's many ebbs and flows.
When California's jobless rate hit a 15-year high in January 2009, Adibi explained that it was a ripple effect from the housing mortgage crisis. In an article published in August of last year, he cautioned that wild variations in stock prices were poor indicators of overall economic health.
Keeya Adibi, 28, said he was among the many Californians who took his father's advice. He studied accounting in college because his father told him it would be a good fit. Keeya got his master's in finance, inspired by Adibi's passion for economics.
Recently, he asked his father to help him pick out an engagement ring.
"He was my role model," Keeya said. "We are so proud of who he was."
In addition to his son, Adibi is survived by his wife, Jila, his daughter, Roxanne, and two grandchildren, Nicholas and Alexander.
Chapman University will hold a memorial service at 11 a.m. on April 16 at the Fish Interfaith Center on campus.