Obituary - H. Paul Friesema

May 16, 2013

A leading environmental researcher and campaigner has died.

Paul Friesema was born on 20 February 1936 and, after completing undergraduate study at Michigan State University (1958), he went on to take a JD at the Detroit College of Law (1961). He spent two years in private practice and would later use his legal expertise to help draft briefs on environmental issues and Native American rights for presentation to the US Supreme Court.

In 1962, however, he joined the University of Iowa’s Institute of Public Affairs as an expert on urban issues while studying for a master’s in political science at Wayne State University (1965), which was followed by a PhD at the University of Iowa (1968). He also served as visiting scholar at Northwestern University’s Centre for Metropolitan Studies (1964- 65).

Following the completion of his doctorate, Professor Friesema joined Northwestern as an assistant professor of political science and urban studies. He was promoted to associate professor in 1972, professor in 1980 and eventually became professor emeritus in 2009, although he continued to teach and supervise students.

Deeply committed to environmental causes, Professor Friesema co-chaired the university’s environmental council, set up the Northwestern Environmental Field School to give students an opportunity to experience the area’s national parks, and directed the university’s environmental policy and culture programme, which he co-founded in 2005. An H. Paul Friesema Award for Environmental Leadership and Academic Achievement is given annually by the university to an exceptional student in the programme.

Much of his research was devoted to policy issues such as land use planning arising out of environmental assessment processes. He put together a library of 20,000 environmental impact statements, which he eventually donated to Northwestern, and co-authored an important book, Forecasts and Environmental Decision Making (1987).

Many of these interests came together in Professor Friesema’s 30-year passion for collecting books on Native American culture, art and history, as well as the National Park system, energy development, wildlife and related subjects. He eventually amassed 35,000 volumes, including early editions of the geographer Henry Schoolcraft (1793-1864) and the annual reports of the 19th-century Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Long unsure about where best to house this material, he was delighted when the Smithsonian Institution opened its National Museum of the American Indian in 2004 and provided the ideal scholarly home.

Professor Friesema died on 8 March and is survived by his wife Jane, three children and six grandchildren.

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