Jonathan Bulkley, Peter M. Wege Professor Emeritus of Sustainable Systems, died July 14 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at age 81 from lung cancer.

Jonathan was born on May 17, 1938, in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Bryant Elementary School and Southwest High School in Kansas City. He earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in political science and civil engineering, a Master of Science degree in civil engineering, and a Ph.D. in political science, with a focus on water resource systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Photo of Jonathan Bulkley
Jonathan Bulkley

Jonathan was first appointed an assistant professor in 1968 in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and what was then the School of Natural Resources, after serving for two years active duty as a first lieutenant and captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. His legacy at the University of Michigan is his leadership and commitment to interdisciplinary sustainability research, education and outreach.

He played a critical role in advancing the sustainability mission at U-M, including the establishment of the National Pollution Prevention Center for Higher Education, the Rackham Graduate Program in Industrial Ecology, the Center for Sustainable Systems, the Sustainable Systems Field of Study the School of Natural Resources, the annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability, and the university’s Campus Environmental Sustainability Reporting. He was director of NPPC, co-director CSS, and co-director of the Corporate Environmental Management Program (now the Erb Institute).

Jonathan was dedicated to the College of Engineering and SNRE. He played an active role in both units, regularly participating in faculty meetings, chairing committees, writing qualifying and prelim examinations and advising students. His pioneering work integrating science, engineering and policy served as the foundation of the Engineering Sustainable Systems graduate dual-degree program, which includes specializations in sustainable water systems, sustainable design and manufacturing, and sustainable energy systems.

In addition to his intellectual leadership, Jonathan’s legacy also included significant development work for CSS and SNRE. His close friendship with Peter Wege, founding CEO of the Wege Foundation, led to a significant endowment for the CSS and the establishment of the Peter M. Wege Chair for Sustainable Systems. In honor of his retirement, the Wege Foundation established the Jonathan Bulkley Collegiate Professor of Sustainable Systems and the Wege and Bulkley Sustainable Systems Fellowship to provide support for dual-degree students.

Outside the university, Jonathan served the State of Michigan by chairing and serving on many important boards and committees covering a wide range of issues spanning from long-term storage of radioactive waste to pollution prevention in the auto industry, and from PBB contamination to combined sewer overflows into the Detroit River.

His service on two committees stands out: the Mercury Pollution Prevention Task Force from 1994-96, and as a member and chair of the Lead Panel for the Michigan Environmental Science Board from 1994-95. Jonathan was particularly concerned about children’s exposure to lead paint and environmental contamination of mercury from coal-fired power plants.

In addition, Jonathan’s work for the late U.S. District Judge John Feikens was instrumental in improving water quality in the southeast Michigan watershed. Much of this work with the state provided a basis for his scholarly research on water resources policy.

In addition to an extraordinary career, Jonathan was a gracious and caring person, dedicated to his wife, Trudy, their children, Nancy and Nathaniel, and grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 24 in the Michigan League Ballroom. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Treeline Conservancy, 525 W. William St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103,

— Submitted by the School for Environment and Sustainability