Northwestern celebrates life of trailblazing professor

Weinberg dean Sarah Mangelsdorf,  who spoke at H. Paul Friesema’s memorial service, said he was

Brian Lee/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg dean Sarah Mangelsdorf, who spoke at H. Paul Friesema’s memorial service, said he was “instrumental” in developing the school’s environmental policy program.

Amy Whyte, Reporter

Family, colleagues and former students of Prof. H. Paul Friesema remembered his contributions to environmental studies at Northwestern during a memorial service Friday.

“Paul was really planting seeds all over, but not just planting them, but really nurturing them and really developing them into initiatives and programs that I think will last a long time,” said Yael Wolinsky-Nahmias, former director of the Environmental Policy and Culture Program, to a crowd of about 70 at Alice Millar Chapel.

Friesema helped start the program, later creating the Environmental Field School, which places students in summer internships at National Parks.

Friesema, who came to NU in 1968, died March 8 at the age of 77.

Former Prof. James Caporaso, who taught political science alongside Friesema from 1968 to 1978, spoke about his friendship with Friesema during his early years at NU.

“He was a great colleague, a wonderful friend,” Caporaso said. “I don’t think he realized the impact he had on my life. He was my dearest friend, and I will miss him greatly.”

Former students Derek Supple (McCormick ’03), Sam Eckland (Weinberg ’10) and Caroline Walls (Weinberg ’11)  took turns reflecting on the support and encouragement they received from Friesema during their time at NU and beyond.

“Paul made a point to visit me at every park I worked at, even after I graduated,” Walls said. “He was important to us, but we were also important to him.”

Eckland, who described the environmental policy course he took with Friesema as “the only class I ever set the curve in,” credited a recommendation from Friesema with helping him become SEED co-chair in 2009.

“I look back at NU and always picture Paul Friesema as an angel sitting on my shoulder,” Eckland said.

The service was followed by a reception in Parkes Hall, where Marti Bjornson, who met Friesema while working as an academic adviser in the School of Continuing Studies, remembered their shared interest in environmental policy.

“I was really touched by the extent to which he shared knowledge and himself with so many generations of students,” Bjornson said.

Several of Friesema’s family members were also in attendance, including his wife Jane and daughter Susan, who spoke.

“It was so meaningful for us to hear the way my father mentored and had such a meaningful impact on not just his children and grandchildren, but on colleagues and students,” Susan Friesema said. “Although we considered him such a family man, it’s clear that this community here was also his family.”

Wolinsky-Nahmias organized the service with the help of a group of students and faculty, including former SEED co-chair Amanda Myers and current SEED co-chair Mark Silberg.

“We all felt that Paul Friesema had a significant impact on our lives, on the lives of many others at Northwestern and in the community and on environmental learning at Northwestern,” Wolinsky-Nahmias said.