The offices of the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), Office of Sustainability (OOS), and Environmental Studies Program (ENVS) are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Professor of Chemistry Jonathan Kenny in early December. He is remembered and celebrated by his colleagues, students, and friends of the Tufts community
Professor Kenny was a staunch advocate of environmentalism and sustainability over the course of his almost 40 years at Tufts. In his research, Jonathan primarily focused on fluorescence-based methods to address problems in photochemistry, most notably in environmental sensing of groundwater contaminants. His work also included substantial emphasis on the greenhouse effect and climate change. A firm believer in the imperative of sustainability, Jonathan pioneered the “Green Chemistry” approach to the chemical sciences at Tufts in order to emphasize the need of the field to find safer and more viable means to meet the needs of society by “greening” both research and teaching methods. In addition to his appointment at the Department of Chemistry, Jonathan was a member of the Environmental Studies Executive Committee and served as a dedicated teacher, mentor, and advisor to students in Environmental Studies. Professor Kenny is remembered by his colleagues as an innovative, forward-thinking teacher and an active, thoughtful mentor to his students.
Professor Kenny’s distinguished career included numerous service positions, many of them to ensure that Tufts University stood as a model institution for campus sustainability. Since 2013, Jonathan served as a member of President Monaco’s first Sustainability Council as the co-chair of the Waste working group. He continued his work helping the University reduce its environmental impact by serving on the 2017 Council for Sustainability of Campus Operations, which included the Medford/Somerville campus decarbonization task force. As a longtime-TIE Affiliated Faculty member, Professor Kenny served as a mentor to students and was particularly invested in the enrichment of Tufts’ position as a leading environmental, higher education institution. Over the course of his career, Jonathan co-directed the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) and contributed to the Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) Certificate program for many years. He was an active member of the Divest Tufts faculty group and served as the “Science Advisor” for Tomorrow’s Earth Stewards magazine. In his work and service, Jonathan strengthened Tufts’ environmental curriculum and worked to ensure the university and campus stayed true to its goals and values as a leading institution in environmental research, practice, and activism.
The environmental community at Tufts recognizes Professor Kenny’s life and career as a shining example for the many students, colleagues, and peers who worked alongside him. His leadership and dedication to sustainability and environmental progress leaves us with a substantial legacy and his presence is already greatly missed.