Stephen Dresch passed away Sunday, August 6, at his home in Hancock, MI. He was born in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1943, the first son of Rev. Lester and Mrs. Lenore Dresch. He graduated from high school at the age of 16. At 19, he married Linda Ness and graduated from Miami University in Ohio. He later earned a PhD in economics at Yale University.
Stephen was a brilliant and dynamic scholar and public intellectual. Over his lifetime, Stephen Dresch's fearlessness in standing up for the principles he believed in led him in many unexpected directions.
Dresch worked at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Ford Foundation in New York City, and taught at Yale, Rutgers, and Southern Connecticut State College. He established the Institute for Demographic and Economic Studies in New Haven, CT, and served as an economic advisor to several presidents. As a young scholar in the early 1970s, Dresch courageously disputed high-profile, politically-motivated defense budget assertions by members of the President's cabinet, presenting the facts and defending the public interest in congressional testimony.
By the mid-1970’s, Stephen had recognized the unsustainable economic trends in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and in 1983 he joined the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria, where he worked with freedom-oriented scholars from captive nations in planning their free market futures.
In 1985, Dresch accepted a position as professor and Dean of the Michigan Technological University School of Business and Engineering Administration. Not long after assuming this post he was shocked to discover significant financial malfeasance, and his successful efforts to expose wrongdoing within the university marked a pivotal career shift. Dresch became an "accidental politician" when his revelations ended a corrupt university economic venture that was closing area businesses and putting residents out of work. In 1990, with a strictly grass-roots campaign that accepted no PAC money or professional political "management," he won a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, representing the 110th District.
Stephen arrived to a hostile reception in the state Capitol. The legislative leaders of what he came to view as "an inbred, self-serving political establishment" (some later indicted), decreed, "No Dresch bill will leave this House." Undaunted, Stephen directed his passionate lifelong pursuit of truth, justice and integrity at using his office to target instances of government trampling the rights and liberties of ordinary citizens. His open and engaging style encouraged citizens and government whistleblowers to trust this unusual legislator, and they told him things: Dresch exposed a welfare department cover-up surrounding the death of a young woman in a state-licensed foster care facility; the burial by National Forest officials of barrels of DDT-tainted waste oil; and an attempted 11th hour "pension raid" by legislative leaders. Defeating this last item has since saved Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars.
His reputation as a defender of the "little guy" led Dresch to take up the defense of Richard Delene, the conservationist condemned as a "wetlands outlaw" by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and he was instrumental in defusing a "raid" of the Delene property by armed DNR officials that could have led to tragedy.
In the last, lengthy phase of his career, Dresch provided expert witness testimony, investigation and analysis for numerous judicial and congressional inquiries. In the process he shined light into some very dark corners, revealing domestic and international corruption, including bioterror threats to society. Some of these events are documented in an independent film Stephen participated in, the trailer of which may be seen at www.deadinthewoods.com.
Stephen was an adjunct scholar at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, and was active in wide-ranging organizations from the Great Lakes Property Rights Action League to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Economic Association. The list of scholarly books and journal articles he authored is voluminous, and he also produced numerous newspaper columns documenting his activities in exposing public corruption. Stephen Dresch had a deep and positive impact on all who knew him . His greatness was in his goodness, and in his breathtaking courage.
Stephen was preceded in death by his parents, and is survived by his wife Linda; his sons Soren (Kelly) and Karl; his daughters Stephanie (Steve) Rowe and Phaedra (Steve Brown) Dresch; grandchildren Peter and Sophie Rowe of Hancock, MI and Soren Simms and Merrill Dresch of Crawfordville, GA; brother Michael (Sue); and sister Elsa (Dennis) Boen; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial tributes to Stephen Dresch will be posted on a web module at www.mackinac.org/7861. Those who wish to contribute tributes and brief memoirs should e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitation will be at the Peterson Funeral Home in Calumet on Wednesday, August 9 from 3:00-5:00 and 7:00-9:00.
“IN HOC SIGNO VINCES”
Carry on, Stephen.