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Pope III, Clive Arden

Published onOct 11, 2021
Pope III, Clive Arden

(September 30, 1955 - )

Quick Facts

Pope III is an economist and epidemiologist.

Clive A. Pope III was born in Logan, Utah, a college town in Cache County roughly 85 miles north of Salt Lake City. The son of Lewiston, Utah native Clive Arden Pope, Jr. and Pikeville, North Carolina born Vivian Evelyn Pope, C. Arden Pope III spent his youth on a ranch in Wyoming and a farm in Idaho, absorbing the rural values that have shaped his subsequent development. This upbringing instilled in him an appreciation of the outdoors. He enjoyed sports and outdoor activities more than school and did not study intensively. An interest in farming led Pope to considering agriculture-related majors at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. Pope took an introductory course in agricultural economics, becoming fascinated with the discipline because of its relevance and empiricism. An econometrics course followed, so enthralling Pope that he decided to major in agricultural economics, earning a BS in 1978. His interest in economics and growing passion for academics led him to graduate school at Iowa State University (ISU). The curriculum challenged Pope, who found himself studying diligently for the first time in his schooling. He fondly recalls these years, which prepared him to be an economist, scholar, and scientist.

A research associate and staff economist at ISU’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development between 1980 and 1982, Pope earned an MS in economics and a PhD in economics and statistics, ISU conferring both degrees in 1981. The next year he became assistant professor in the agricultural economics department at Texas A & M University in College Station, where his research increasingly focused on natural resource and environmental economics. In 1984 Pope returned to BYU as assistant professor in the department of agricultural economics, in 1986 becoming associate professor. Two years later, with a merger of departments, he joined BYU’s economics department.

Between April 1985 and March 1989, Pope took advantage of a unique natural experiment related to Geneva Steel, a large integrated steel mill that was the largest single source of air pollution in Utah Valley. A dispute between labor and management closed it for thirteen months in the late 1980s. Anecdotes from mothers whose children were ill while the factory operated and well when it was idle prompted Pope to examine retrospectively pediatric hospital admission data. He observed that during the mill’s closure, local hospitals admitted fewer respiratory patients, but when production resumed, hospital admissions rose. Pope linked these hospitalizations to airborne pollutants discharged by Geneva Steel, a finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hailed as “seminal.” As visiting scientist and interdisciplinary program in health fellow at Harvard University’s School of Public Health in 1992 and 1993, Pope and his colleagues enlarged this finding by documenting air pollution’s adverse contributions to cardiovascular and lung disease and mortality.

Pope admits that his work generated controversy. Opposition came from politicians who favor energy producers and factories, though subsequent studies have confirmed his findings. Geneva Steel executives rejected Pope’s work, hiring a Georgetown University epidemiologist to discredit it. Yet Pope neither internalized this negativity nor engaged in acrimony even when critics sought to offend him. Instead he continued to publish, letting his research answer them. Lauded for his openness to criticism, Pope uses objections to define topics for further research.

Publishing in economics, environmental science, and medical journals, Pope became a world expert on air pollution. Before his work, attention had focused on harm from gases like ozone, but Pope’s research shifted the focus to the tiny particles in air pollution that lodge in the lungs, inflaming them. Pope and other scientists have documented that such inflammation injures the body in many ways, causing cancers, heart disease, and premature deaths. Harvard University environmental epidemiologist Douglas Dockery praised the simple elegance of Pope’s research, citing it as an example of “genius.” In 1997, the findings of Pope and other scientists led the EPA to toughen air quality standards. Corporations sued the EPA, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new regulations in 2001.

The merits of his science earned Pope promotion to full professor in BYU’s economics department in 1994 and to Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics, an endowed chair, in 2005. Between 2009 and 2012, he was associate dean of BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Science. Pope received various awards and honors between 1986 and 2017, including BYU’s Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Research and Creative Arts Award in 1995, the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology in 2004, BYU’s Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award in 2006, the Best Environmental Epidemiology Paper Award in 2010, the Gardner Prize from the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters in 2014, and BYU’s Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar award in 2017.

Despite his attainments, Pope is modest, admitting that most people are uninterested in the intricacies of research. As busy as he is, Pope puts his family first, taking back packing trips with his wife and sons, whose sports teams he coached. Three sons have also earned PhDs in economics.

Selected Sources

C. Arden Pope: Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics. Brigham Young University Department of Economics.

Curriculum Vitae, 2018.

Smart, Michael D. “Clearing the Air.” BYU Magazine, Spring 2007.

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