Henry B. Steele (’49)

Dr. Henry Binford Steele passed away in the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 18. He was 89. Born on May 12, 1931, to Henry Benton Steele, Jr., and Doris Binford during the heady days of the Herbert Hoover administration, Henry grew up just outside of downtown Houston, in a rambling house on Washington Avenue that formerly served as the original DePelchin home. Though he was the oldest of three children, he was just a little guy during the Great Depression, while World War II dominated his early teenage years. An accelerated student, he was graduated from Reagan High School in 1948, a year early; however, his time abroad in Sweden at the University of Stockholm, where he became fluent in Swedish, added a year to his college experience. In 1952, Henry earned a degree in economics and business administration from Rice University before heading off to Cambridge, Mass., for his Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he completed in 1957. His dissertation was on the topic of oil shale, an up-and-coming facet of the energy industry of the time. Immediately after MIT, he returned to Houston to work as an assistant professor of economics at his alma mater, Rice. Henry married Janet Moran, whom he had known for years, in 1960, and sons Richard and Stuart followed in 1964 and 1965, respectively, followed years later by Nelson in 1976. In 1966, a tenure-track position at the University of Houston lured him from Rice, where he spent the remaining 35 years of his career. Between teaching assignments and authoring multiple textbooks on energy economics, he worked as a consultant on assignments that took him from Caracas, Venezuela, to Ottawa, Canada, and many places in between. Henry was a consummate academic in the classroom and in the world. He had an insatiable desire to be in the wilds of nature and, as both an off-road driving and hiking fanatic, there were few things he loved more than traveling to Big Bend National Park and points west. In addition to the scores of Big Bend trips, he worked his way around all the western contiguous states and comprehensively devoured their bounty of scenic wonders. He always preferred to take his three sons and wife on his many adventures, instilling in all of them his love of nature and the West. Henry spent his retirement years exploring the West and, as a lifelong enthusiast of classical music, basking in the beauty of his favorite composers. He would also spend hours absorbing the profound content of volumes of ancient philosophy and books on metaphysics. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet; and their three sons, Richard Henry Steele, Stuart Randolph Steele and Nelson Adams Steele (Kimberly Pillsbury Steele). He also leaves behind a sister, Mary Steele Gerke. Loving husband and father, adventurer, author, academic and music lover, Henry will be greatly missed and always adored. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you please make a donation in his name to Big Bend Conservancy at bigbendconservancy.org.

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