Dr. Nicholas Balabkins, 96, of Bethlehem peacefully passed away on May 8, 2023 in his home surrounded by his family. He was the loving husband of the late Dr. Gladys Morales-Balabkins MD, with whom he shared over 47 years of marriage, until her passing in 2011.
Nicolai was born July 17, 1926, in Daugavpils, Latvia, son of the late Joseph and Anna (Zeleskina) Balabkins. He received his undergraduate education from the Georg-August University of Göttingen, West Germany, in 1949. After WWII, Nicolai immigrated to the United States and, in 1956 received his Master’s and his Doctorate degrees in Economics from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1957 Nicolai joined Lehigh University where he taught until his retirement in 1994. He was considered one of the best teachers at the university as recognized by awards for teaching excellence. In his teaching, he combined approachability and academic rigor. Students liked his ready smile and colorful bowties but soon realized that he was serious about learning. Many of his students went on to successful careers and decades later thanked him for what they learned in his classes.
Nicolai’s range of research and scholarship was broad. He wrote a dozen books and over forty published professional articles that mixed economic theory, economic history, economic sociology, statistics, and technology. His best-known work was his 1971 book “West German Reparations to Israel,” published by the Rutgers University Press. At the time of his death, he had nearly completed a new work on US infrastructure investment. Fluent in four languages and able to communicate in several others, he maintained a rich international correspondence. Nicolai’s scholarly work earned him well-deserved worldwide recognition in his fields of expertise. Nicolai’s reputation was such that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he received several high honors from the government of his home country, Latvia, including the highest order that it’s government could bestow, Order of the Three Stars (Triju Zvaigžņu ordenis). He was also offered a senior government position but declined because he felt his scholarly pursuits would be of more value than a political career.
He was a devoted husband and an extraordinary professor, colleague, neighbor, and friend.
He will be lovingly remembered by his siblings Antonida Arajs, Tatjiana May, Lydia Cipkins and Joseph Balabkins Jr., as well as many loving nieces and nephews. In addition to his loving wife Gladys, he was preceded in death by his brothers Paul Balabkins and Alex Balabkins.
Burial services will be private. Nicolai’s arrangements have been entrusted to the Cantelmi Long Funeral Home, Bethlehem. A memory tribute may be placed at www.cantelmifuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Lehigh University, 27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015.
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