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Transportation Scholar Aaron Gellman Dies at 85

Gellman had a ‘deep appreciation of the interplay of technology, economics and policy’

Aaron J. Gellman, a transportation scholar, aviation expert and former director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, died Monday (Jan. 11) at age 85.

In demand by the government, industry and the media for his wide-ranging expertise, Gellman had more than 50 years of experience as an economist, strategist, consultant and academic in the transportation industry. His research focused on transportation economics, regulation and policy.

Gellman was a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Gellman joined the Northwestern faculty in 1992 and retired in 2014.

Aaron Gellman“Aaron was an intellectual powerhouse and a visionary with a deep appreciation of the interplay of technology, economics and policy in the transportation industry,” said Hani S. Mahmassani, current director of the Transportation Center.

“He also was an influential mentor and friend to many. Aaron will be missed by his friends, colleagues and the wider transportation community who valued his expertise and enthusiasm,” said Mahmassani, who also is the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation.

Gellman served as director of the University’s Transportation Center from 1992 to 2000. Under his leadership, Chambers Hall, the present home for the Transportation Center, was built and inaugurated in 1999. After his tenure as director, he became a professor of transportation at the center. 

“Aaron had an insatiable appetite for knowledge, about transportation, of course, but also about art, music, the economy, technology, business -- the world,” said longtime colleague Joseph Schofer, a faculty associate of the Transportation Center and a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “And he was driven to share that knowledge with everyone around him -- students, friends, colleagues, policymakers, the public. When Aaron spoke, people listened.”

Policymakers, leaders in the transportation industry and corporate board members frequently sought Gellman’s counsel throughout his long career.

Gellman served on numerous government panels and committees. These included, most recently, the advisory board to the Panama Canal Authority; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Aerospace Technology Advisory Committee; and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Research, Engineering and Development Subcommittee on Safety and Air Traffic Services. 

Prior to coming to Northwestern, Gellman was an adjunct professor of systems and regional science at the University of Pennsylvania for 24 years. He founded and was formerly president of Gellman Research Associates, Inc., a transportation consulting firm. 

Gellman was a member of the American Economic Association, the Transportation Research Forum and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, among other professional societies. He also was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gellman earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an MBA from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in economics from the University of Virginia.

A service will be held at 12:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, at Shalom Memorial Funeral Home, 1700 W. Rand Road,
 Arlington Heights, IL 60004. Interment will follow at Shalom Memorial Park.

The Transportation Center will hold a memorial event in honor and celebration of Gellman’s life and accomplishments at a date to be announced in the near future.