Peter Elek, 78; Taught Economics At Villanova

Posted: September 14, 2000

Peter S. Elek, 78, of Bryn Mawr, a professor emeritus of economics at Villanova University who also taught English to Eastern European refugees and immigrants, died of cancer Monday at the Bryn Mawr Terrace Convalescent Center.

Professor Elek taught at Villanova for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1992. At the same time, he taught intermittently at the University of Delaware, Eastern College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Until a year ago, Professor Elek taught English to thousands of refugees and immigrants who had fled Eastern Europe. He also oversaw the English and citizenship programs at Lower Merion High School for 35 years.

Born in Hungary, he studied at the University of Budapest, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 and a doctorate in 1945, both in economics. He also studied at Cambridge University in England.

With a price placed on his head by the communists in 1948, according to his family, Professor Elek fled Hungary by hiding under bales of hay in a truck and swimming to Austria across an icy tributary of the Danube River.

He made it to Switzerland and, in 1950, to the United States, settling in Lancaster County, where he found work with a seed company. He also sold insurance and worked as a consultant to a medical-insurance group before joining the Villanova faculty in 1964. He went on to lecture and write articles on Eastern European and Soviet economic policies.

Professor Elek was a member of Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, where he taught Sunday school.

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Mary Drinker Elek; son, the Rev. Henry D.; daughters, Frances E. McComb, Susanna Middleton Elek, and Daphne E. Scullin; and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Redeemer, Pennswood and New Gulph Roads, Bryn Mawr. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Dominic Sama's e-mail address is

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