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John V. Krutilla ’49

A picture of John Krutilla

John V. Krutilla ’49, LLD ’78, June 27, 2003, at his home in McLean, Virginia, from lung cancer. John received his bachelor’s degree from Reed in economics. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II, and then attended Harvard College, receiving a master’s degree in 1951 and a PhD in 1952, in economics. From 1952 to 1955, he worked as an economist at the Tennessee Valley Authority, leaving there to establish a nonprofit research center based in Washington, D.C., Resources for the Future. From 1955 until his retirement in 1988, John's independent research on environmental and natural resource issues took him to every continent but Africa. He was the first to identify undisturbed natural environments, such as wilderness areas, as natural assets. A colleague once remarked, "Those who care about the environment and see it as a public resource owe an immense debt of gratitude to John Krutilla for teaching us how to think about the economics of resource conservation." His data supported issues that ranged from forestry and fisheries to biodiversity, solid waste, and land use. Well respected and recognized worldwide, John lectured and consulted extensively. He published an exhaustive list of books, including The Economics of Natural Environments; journal articles, including the award-winning, "Conservation Reconsidered" (American Economic Review, 1967); monographs; and government reports. John was one of two recipients of the Inaugural Volvo Environment Prize in 1990. He was active in the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, in several United Nations commissions, and in many environmental groups. He was also instrumental in establishing the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, from which he received a distinguished service award in 1987. In 1989, he was awarded the distinguished service award from the Society of Conservation Biology. John was a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Economic Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Phi Beta Kappa. He served as trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund, and was a member of the Wilderness Society. Krutilla’s interests included wilderness canoe-camping and fly-fishing, relief carving, furniture and wood design, and cabinetry. For his 50-year Reed alumni Reunions profile, he wrote that his future involved, "reading, rocking, and nodding." And he commented more than once that "to a first generation American of Carpathian Mountains peasant ancestry, the Reed experience was, arguably, the most important single experience of my life." He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Shirley Weindl Krutilla, two sons, and a daughter.

Appeared in Reed magazine: November 2003

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