Lamont (Monty) Hempel (1950-2019)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Monty Hempel, AESS’ first interim President and a founder of our organization, on December 4th. As Monty was a founding leader of AESS, we believe it is important for us to look back and recognize his work in environmental studies and our organization.
Monty was the Hedco Chair in Environmental Studies and the Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Redlands as well as a committed filmmaker. His academic and film work, through his non-profit organization Blue Planet United, focused on sustainability and often marine issues in particular. Monty emphasized emotional connection to the world, as in his short film Eye to Eye with Whales. Anyone who knew Monty could tell you that he also fostered hope and connection between people. A single conversation with him could tell you how kind and optimistic he was, despite working and documenting environmental problems that pose existential threats to plants and animals, including humans, in a changing world.
Monty was among a group of people who decided that there needed to be a community of scholars and students dedicated to advancing interdisciplinary environmental research and teaching. They decided to create AESS to enable this community. Monty and this innovative group took the bold steps to make the organization we are a part of today. We are grateful for the moxy and adventurous spirit that this required, emblematic of our first leader. In memory of Monty, AESS has decided to create a standing award in environmental communications in his name. We wish the family heartfelt peace.
It is perhaps fitting to end with Monty’s own words which open Eye to Eye with Whales as it tells us what he thought our lives were really about:
The best thing about being human is the moral sense of awe that connects us to the web of life.
His family requests that donations be made to The Coral Reef Alliance, 1330 Broadway, Suite 600, Oakland, CA.
Peter J. Jacques, President
David Hassenzahl, Founding Secretary, Past President
John A. “Skip” Laitner, Past President
Wil Burns, Past President
Phil Camill, Past President
Kimberly Smith, First Elected Past President
Tony Rosenbaum, Founding Board Member, Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal for Environmental Studies and Sciences
Greg Mohr, Founding Treasurer
Stephanie Pfirman, Founding Board Member
Stephanie Kaza, Founding Board Member
David Blockstein, Founding Board Member
Bob Wilkinson, Co-founder of the first meeting at UC Santa Barbara with Bill Freudenburg