Campus Life

In Memoriam: Kent Portney

Portney was director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Service.
By Bush School of Government and Public Service Communications June 25, 2020

graphic reading "in memoriam: kent portney" next to black and white photograph of portney
Bush School professor Kent Portney died Saturday, June 13.

Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service


The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University announces that Professor Kent Portney passed away suddenly on Saturday, June 13.

Portney came to the Bush School’s Department of Public Service and Administration in 2014. He was appointed director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy in September 2016 after serving two years as a Senior Fellow in the Institute. Honored in 2017 as a Texas A&M University Presidential Impact Fellow, in 2018 he was named to the Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy.

Lori Taylor, head of the Department of Public Service and Administration, noted that Portney’s scholarly drive and passion for environmental issues were evident in everything he did in his wide-ranging and distinguished professional career.

“In the last year alone, Dr. Portney participated in several major environmental initiatives, including the Resilience and Climate Change Cooperative Project (RCCCP) with the Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities in Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Planning, the Texas A&M Institute for Sustainable Communities, the Texas A&M Energy Institute’s Interdisciplinary Academic Council, the Food-Energy-Water Nexus Initiative Leadership Team,  the Water Research Group, and the Water Management and Hydrologic Science Program through Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences,” Taylor said.

Portney represented the Bush School on the university’s Council of Principal Investigators and was himself a principal investigator for multiple projects, including “Gene Drive Applications to Agriculture in Texas: Knowledge, Perceptions, and Values Program Area Priority: Social Implications of Emerging Technologies” and “Pathways to Sustainable and Socially Equitable Transitions to Urban Water Security: Desalination and Water Reuse Challenges in the 21st Century.” He also served as associate editor for Climatic Change and as a member of the editorial board for Urban Science.

Prior to joining the Bush School, Portney spent more than 30 years on the faculty at Tufts University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Political Science and directed the Graduate Program in Public Policy and Citizen Participation. He was director of the Water and Research Program at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He received his Ph.D in political science from Florida State University, his master’s from the University of Connecticut, and his bachelor’s from Rutgers University, where his studies focused on public administration and public policy. His 1993 book with Jeffrey M. Berry and Ken Thomson, The Rebirth of Urban Democracy, earned two awards from the American Political Science Association: the Gladys Kammerer Award for “Best Book in American National Politics;” and the Urban Politics Section’s “Best Book in Urban Politics.”

“All of us at the school mourn the loss of our friend and colleague,” said Dean Mark Welsh. “His commitment to excellence in public administration and his passion for the environment gave Dr. Portney unique insights into how government can be a positive force for change. He was a wonderful scholar and a tremendous teammate. He will be greatly missed by his students, and his colleagues. Our heart goes out to his family.”

This article originally appeared on the Bush School of Government and Public Service website.

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