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Former state economist helped transform Hawaii

Former state economist Shelley Mark, praised for helping to usher in a new economic era after statehood in Hawaii, has died.

Mark, who served under Govs. John Burns and George Ariyoshi as head of the Department of Planning and Economic Development from 1962 to 1974, died of natural causes at his Hono­lulu home June 13, his family said. He was 94.

“He was very concerned about the use of land controlled by the ‘Big Five’ landowners in Hawaii,” recalled Ariyoshi. “He had his own ideas. He had strong feelings, and he made no bones about expressing these feelings.”

Ariyoshi said Mark served as a key adviser in the development of a law that enabled Hawaii residents to convert their leasehold land to fee simple.

“He was a visionary,” said James Crisafulli, research and development coordinator for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Crisafulli recalled Mark helped to lay the groundwork for Hawaii’s aerospace industry, including the establishment of the Japan- U.S. Science, Technology and Space Application Program, which promotes cooperation in aerospace development.

His department also did a study to find ways to expand the University of Hawaii at Hilo into a four-year institution with a graduate school.

In 1975 he was appointed land-use coordinator at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., where he was charged with developing a national land-use policy.

Shelley Muin Mark, born in Guangdong province in China on Sept. 9, 1922, was the oldest of seven children. He was a year old when his parents moved to Seattle.

Shelley worked his way through school by loading cargo on Seattle’s waterfront as an ILWU worker and parking cars at Longacres racetrack as a member of the Teamsters.

After earning a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1944, he worked as a foreign news correspondent at CBS, chronicling the D-Day invasion, his family said.

He earned a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Washington in 1956 and served as an economics professor at the University of Washington and later at Arizona State University.

During President Harry Truman’s administration, Mark was appointed territorial economist for Hawaii’s Office of Price Stabilization. He promoted small business and testified in favor of giving taro farmers a better break in pricing, over the objection of taro processors, his family said.

He taught economics at the University of Hawaii from 1953 until his appointment by Burns, then Ari­yoshi.

During his work at the East-West Center from 1984 to 1994, he helped develop the international economics program.

Younger colleagues said he served as an excellent mentor.

“I learned a great deal from his writing style, particularly when presenting research to the government,” said Michael Plummer, director of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Europe. “Shelley was a great man: talented scholar, dedicated public servant and a wonderful colleague. He will certainly be missed.”

He is survived by his second wife, Tung Chow; sons Philip, Paul, Peter and Steven; daughter Diane; brothers Wing, Richard, Albert and Herbert; sister Mirian Lee; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held July 14 at the Diamond Head Memorial Park Chapel, with visitation at 10 a.m., service at 11 a.m. and inurnment at 2 p.m. No flowers.

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