Lamont “Monty” Hempel, University of Redlands Hedco chairman of environmental studies and the director of the Center for Environmental Studies, died on Dec. 4, following a brief illness. He was 69.
One colleague reflected: “We have lost a pillar of the environmental community, a towering intellect and a kind and gentle friend. My heart grieves with you all.”
Prior to moving to Redlands, Hempel lived in Claremont for more than 20 years. He had been a professor at Pitzer College and at Claremont Graduate University, where he also administered the Center for Public Policy. He was Marilee Scaff’s son-in-law. With great good humor, he once told the family that Marilee had lectured him on climate change, to which he protested mildly, “That’s my field — and everything she said was correct!”
Hempel joined the University of Redlands College of Arts and Sciences faculty in 1999 and, as the Hedco chairman, directed the transformative growth of environmental programs at the university, including creating the Department of Environmental Studies, curriculum development in the former Whitehead College and the Redlands Institute. Hempel also chaired the Sustainability Council of the university.
Each year he took students to the tiny island nation of Palau to study sustainability in action in a place known for its beautiful fragile coral reefs and traditional culture trying to withstand the ravages of modern society. He was devoted to young people and believed they were the promise for the future.
Hempel’s teaching, research and public service interests focused on environmental science and policy, with particular emphasis on issues of climate disruption, marine environmental protection, and international environmental governance. His professional work, strongly interdisciplinary, was guided by the goal of pragmatic idealism.
In addition to his teaching and research, Hempel was a documentary filmmaker. He made more than 25 films, specializing in works about coral ecosystems, sustainability, wilderness preservation and biodiversity. His film “Spirit of Place” won the John Muir Award for excellence. He wrote the book “Environmental Governance,” which is used is classrooms across the country. He was also the founding president of Blue Planet United, a small 501(c)(3) educational organization that produces environmental films and a quarterly news journal about human population, consumption and sustainability.
Hempel is survived by his wife Marilyn; sons Julian and Peadar; and grandsons Riley, Declan, Torin, Callen and Michael.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the University of Redlands chapel. A reception in Lewis Hall (Environmental Studies Department building on campus) will follow the service.