June 20, 2018
Robert “Bob” Kates, an emeritus board member of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, passed away on April 21, 2018 at the age of 89. Kates’s family and friends remember him as collaborative, curious and creative — a man who asked big, complex questions and engaged others to help answer them. At the heart of everything Kates did was a question he often pondered with those closest to him: "How does one do good in the world?"
In addition to serving on the ASU Wrigley Institute’s board, Kates’s work was cited in the "Temozón Retreat Report," which was instrumental to the founding of the institute. His sustainability research — and much of his work — centered around another major question: “What is and ought to be the human use of the earth?” Kates described sustainability science as the most interdisciplinary field in his professional life.
With an academic and scientific mind, Kates’s impact spanned several universities and institutions. He was a geography professor at Clark University in Massachusetts; he helped create what is now the Institute of Resource Assessment in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; he directed the Feinstein World Hunger Program at Brown University; he was a senior research associate at Harvard University; he was the executive editor of Environment magazine; and he was the presidential professor of sustainability science at the University of Maine.
Throughout his career, Kates was honored with several awards, including the National Medal of Science for his “fundamental contributions to the understanding of natural and man-made hazards, global environmental change, and the prevalence and persistence of world hunger.” In 2007, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Kates’s most recent award was a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Geographers.
Although numerous, these achievements are far from all-encompassing. Find out more about Bob Kates’s life and work on his personal website and in his obituary. He is missed and fondly remembered by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and, of course, his colleagues at Arizona State University.