Lamont "Monty" Hemple
University professor, sustainability warrior, filmmaker, grandfather
“It is with deep shock and sadness that we share the news that Lamont (Monty) Hempel, the University of Redlands’ Hedco Chair in Environmental Studies and Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, died December 4, following a brief illness. He was 69 years old,” read a statement from the university.
“We have lost a pillar of the environmental community, a towering intellect, and a kind and gentle friend,” a colleague said. “My heart grieves with you all.”
Prior to moving to Redlands, Mr. Hempel lived in Claremont for 20 years. He was a professor at Pitzer College and at Claremont Graduate University, where he also administered the Center for Public Policy. He was the son-in-law of the late Marilee Scaff.
“With great good humor, he once told the family that Marilee had lectured him on climate change, to which he protested mildly, ‘That’s my field—and everything you have said is correct!’” said his wife, and Ms. Scaff’s daughter, Marilyn Scaff Hempel.
Mr. Hempel joined the Redlands College of Arts and Sciences faculty in 1999, and, as the Hedco Chair, directed the transformative growth of environmental programs at the university, including creating the Department of Environmental Studies, curriculum development in the former Whitehead College, and the Redlands Institute. He also chaired the university’s Sustainability Council.
He was devoted to young people and believed they were the promise for the future. Each year he took students to the tiny island nation of Palau, to study sustainability in action in a place known for its beautiful but fragile coral reefs and traditional culture trying to withstand the ravages of modern society.
Mr. Hempel’s teaching, research, and public service interests focused on environmental science and policy, with particular emphasis on issues of climate disruption, marine environmental protection, and international environmental governance. His professional work, strongly interdisciplinary, was guided by the goal of pragmatic idealism.
In addition to his teaching and research, he was a documentary filmmaker, specializing in works about coral ecosystems, sustainability, wilderness preservation, and biodiversity.
He was also the founding president of Blue Planet United, a small 501(c)(3) educational organization that produces environmental films and a quarterly news journal about human population, consumption and sustainability.
“Monty was an optimist, believed that people would join together, build sustainable communities, and create a better world,” his colleagues shared. “May he and his work for environmental justice live on in our lives as the best way to memorialize him and perpetuate his passion and purpose.”
Mr. Hempel is survived by his wife, Marilyn; sons, Julian and Peadar; and grandsons, Riley, Declan, Torin, Callen and Michael.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, January 18 at the University of Redlands Chapel. A reception will follow in Lewis Hall, in the Environmental Studies Department building.