The Energy Forum History

Dankwart A. Rustow,  Founder of The Energy Forum

Dankwart A. Rustow, Founder of The Energy Forum 
Dankwart A. Rustow, founded The Energy Forum in the spring of 1982 at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.  Originally conceived as a forum for "corporate and executive planners, policy analysts, [and] economic and investment consultants," The Energy Forum quickly evolved into the premier New York area seminar for discussion of energy issues.  It gathered not just industry representatives, but also academics, journalists, and government officials.

Dan's interests in energy, and most specifically oil, came from his academic work on the Middle East.  For two decades previous to the Forum's founding, he had concentrated on political and economic developments in the region, especially in Turkey.  But he was very familiar with most all the region’s countries, from Libya through Iran.  In fact, in the 1940s, Dan started his studies as a classical Turkish, Arabic and Persian literature major.  It was at this point that he became fluent in Turkish and learned to read both Arabic and Farsi.

In 1940, at the age of 16, Dan moved to Istanbul, Turkey to live with his father who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933 after Hitler's rise to power led to one too many unpleasant encounters with the Gestapo.  After graduating from the University of Istanbul in 1945, Dan made his way to Queens College, CUNY where he earned a second degree (a Political Science B.A., summa cum laude in two years), and then a Ph.D. from Yale University in Political Science in 1949.

After graduating, Dan's primary work focused on political and economic development, especially from a comparative political perspective.  He published widely and one of his most heralded articles, "Transitions to Democracy" is still required reading in many Political Science courses more than 30 years after its publication in 1970.  Dan spent most of his career teaching, first at Princeton University, then Columbia University, and finally the Graduate School, CUNY where he retired in 1996 as Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology.  His foray into the field of energy was encouraged by the energy crises of the 1970s as well as his close friendships with John Lichtblau and the late Walter Levy, internationally recognized and sought-after experts in energy and oil market issues.  As the energy crises evolved, Dan found his knowledge of the region and its political and economic dynamics increasing in demand by people who wanted to understand better such things as OPEC, the global oil prices shocks, and the Iranian Revolution.  Two books from this period include OPEC, success and prospects (with John F. Mugno, 1977) and Oil and turmoil: America faces OPEC and the Middle East (1982).

One of the unique aspects of how Dan approached a problem was his refusal to allow academic boundaries to hem in his investigation.  He was thoroughly interdisciplinary (before this became fashionable) and examined problems from multiple perspectives.  It did not matter if the perspective came from history, economics, politics, sociology or anthropology as long as it helped produce a better or more useful answer.  He often would say to students “call it what you want...” just get to the truth of the issue.  He was not dogmatic about markets or government intervention and he appreciated how each could, depending on the situation, produce a better social outcome.  This was just one manifestation of Dan’s deep practicality.  This practicality also was evident when dealing with gatherings of individuals where Dan was able to intermediate between people with very strongly held views.  Dan also was unusually funny and his humor defused tension and guided individuals and groups to better outcomes.  All of these skills and characteristics made Dan an ideal leader of The Energy Forum.

As a person, Dan was a renaissance man.  Throughout his life, Dan continued to love poetry, especially German poetry, and he would often translate it into English. His linguistic talents were considerable.  Besides his fluency in English, German, and Turkish, and reading knowledge of Arabic, and Persian, he also was fluent in French, Italian, and Swedish, and read Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin and classical Greek.  He was a skilled cartographer and even supported himself while in school by drawing maps for C.S. Hammond and Co.

Dan died in 1996 at the age of 71.

Besides the impact Dan had on friends, family and numerous students, Dan's legacy continues to live on in the Energy Forum with its commitment to open discussion of critical energy issues.

Dan's widow, Dr. Margrit Wreschner, has recently provided a generous contribution to The Energy Forum, Inc. to support the organization’s continued role as the premier venue for thought-provoking and robust debate in the New York energy arena.  The Energy Forum, Inc. is now an independent entity, recognized as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.