Roger Kasperson, who has died at age 83, served as the executive director of SEI from 1999 to 2004. He was a world authority on risk communication and analysis. His work addressed many issues related to global environmental change and policy.
Måns Nilsson, SEI’s current executive director, considers Dr Kasperson to have been an influential mentor. “Those lucky enough to have known him remember his charm, humility, wit and brilliance. He lifted the Institute up after a few difficult years, and set it on its path to scientific excellence and policy relevance, the path that we stay on to this date. His academic contributions in risk and vulnerability, as well as his values and ideas live on as part of SEI’s DNA.”
Roger Kasperson grew up on a farm in Massachusetts, tending to farm animals and working in gardens. He was the first in his family to attend college, thanks to a sports scholarship that led him to nearby Clark University as a commuter student. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in geography at the University of Chicago.
He authored or co-edited 24 books and monographs and 150 peer-reviewed articles, according to his obituary. He spent much of his career at Clark University, where he founded an environmental centre that brought together experts from a wide array of disciplines, including physics, geography, philosophy and psychology. He was one of the first geographers to be elected as a Fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences. An influential figure, he was the subject of a biographical profile, “Roger Kasperson: In Pursuit of Solutions to Risk Conundrums”, in the publication Risk Analysis. Under his leadership, SEI began placing an emphasis on research with a clear focus on environmental and social-environmental issues that face developing countries, the profile noted.
During his years at SEI, he was the supervisor and mentor for current SEI Executive Director Måns Nilsson, who said, “He was the one to set me on my path in terms of academic work – triggering me to get going with PhD studies. He was a role model in other ways – showing humility, grace and integrity, and urging you to be true to yourself, your ideas and values. He also understood the importance of enjoying life with travel, food, good wine and good company.”
SEI extends condolences to Dr Kasperson’s extended family.