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In Memoriam: Paul Friesema

Pioneer in environmental policy and IPR faculty emeritus dies at 77


Paul Friesema
Paul Friesema

H. Paul Friesema, professor emeritus of political science and IPR faculty emeritus at Northwestern University, died March 8 in Evanston. He was 77.

Friesema joined Northwestern in 1968 and was one of two political scientists who were part of the Institute at its launch that same year. Specializing in natural resources, environmental policy, and urban politics, he played a key role in founding and leading IPR’s Environmental Policy Research Program, in addition to several other forward-thinking environmental policy programs and initiatives at the University.

In 1971, Friesema started the Public Lands Project. Its research focused on how urban-generated political pressures affect the federal agencies that administer natural resources and public lands. Friesema also studied the interplay of Native American and environmental issues, natural disasters, alternative energy, urban transportation, and metropolitan politics and government.

Over his 45-year career, Friesema authored or co-authored four books, 17 monographs and reports, and numerous scholarly articles. Although he retired in 2009, he was still teaching and advising students into this year.

“Paul first came to Northwestern to teach urban politics, just as the Center for Urban Affairs—as IPR was then known—was being launched,” said IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan, a friend and colleague. “Over the years he mentored many graduate students, first in urban policy and later in the study of environmental politics. His open door and friendly welcome will be sorely missed.”

A memorial service was held at Northwestern on April 26 where family, friends, and colleagues gathered to celebrate his life and the many contributions he made to the University. Those in attendance included Skogan, Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer, and Sarah Mangelsdorf, dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and an IPR associate.

Several of Friesema's students spoke of his intense dedication to teaching, which was rarely confined to the classroom. He accepted at least one undergraduate almost every quarter for independent study and often traveled with his students to sites across the United States where they could experience firsthand the environmental problems they were learning about and consider their proposed policy solutions.

"We have lost a beloved member of the Northwestern community, but we continue to reap the benefits of his legacy," Mangelsdorf said in her opening remarks. "He will live on through his work and the many students he inspired."

Friesema is survived by his wife, Jane, three children and their spouses, six grandchildren, and a sister.

Photo courtesy of S. Friesema. Additional reporting by Hilary Hurd Anyaso.