Dr. Kenneth A. Dahlberg

Dr. Kenneth A. Dahlberg

Time at Western Michigan University 1966-2001

Kenneth A. Dahlberg was a graduate of Northwestern University (BA 1957), Stanford University (MA 1961), and the University of Colorado (PhD 1966). He joined the WMU Political Science faculty in 1966 as part of a powerhouse cohort hire. He served as director of the WMU Environmental Studies Program from 1998 until retirement in 2001. After retirement, he continued working in his areas of interest for many years, with his last paper completed in December of 2019. 

Dr. Dahlberg built a national and international reputation as a leading scholar in the fields of international relations and international environmental affairs, sustainable food and agricultural systems, natural resources, the conservation of biological diversity, healthy and sustainable food systems, and appropriate technologies. His book, Beyond the Green Revolution, was awarded the 1981 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award as the “best work dealing with international environmental issues.” He was elected a fellow of the AAAS in 1982. In 1991, he received the WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award. 

Many organizations benefited from Dr. Dahlberg’s participation and steady leadership over the years, including the International Studies Association and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (where he was elected president for the 1999-2000 term). Dr. Dahlberg was a Steering Committee member of ATTRA, an invited expert for the UN Center for Science and Technology for Development, a member of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, and served on an advisory panel on appropriate technology for the Clinton Administration. Locally, he was involved with the Asylum Lake Preservation Association, Kalamazoo Fair Food Matters, the Michigan Land Trustees and MOFFA. He also served on Governor Granholm’s Michigan Climate Action Council.

On the personal side, Ken was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Time spent each year at the summer cabin his father built in the mountains helped give him a strong appreciation of the environment. During high school he worked summers on his brother's farm, which gave him a solid grounding in small scale agriculture. He served in U.S. Army Intelligence for two years and was stationed in Wiesbaden and Heidelberg, Germany. Ken was a Fulbright scholar in Brussels, Belgium. He took research sabbaticals in England and Australia, and enjoyed traveling to many parts of the world. Playing handball twice a week with his colleagues was a favorite activity for more than 40 years.

Ken found the best in others and was inclusive of all. He enjoyed working with students and serving as a mentor. International students often shared holiday meals at his home. Ken treasured his friendships and loved his family and spending time with them. His two daughters, Kirsten and Birgit, have established this endowment in memory of their father’s commitment to teaching and mentoring students.

“Apart from being a very kind and decent person, Ken was also generous with his knowledge. As a professor he was accessible, friendly and very patient. His scholarship was invariably careful and compelling. We gleaned a lot of information from his coursework, papers and lectures. His class on global food and politics--apart from being sobering analysis and critique--was extraordinary. We are grateful that we had forty years frequently crossing paths and undertaking various projects with him. Ken was always principled and dedicated to serving the common good.”  - Mike Phillips, WMU Alumnus (1982) B.S. and Lisa Phillips, WMU Alumnus (1988) M.S.

“Ken was a kind, caring and generous mentor for many of us. I was not in one of his classes, but he was my teacher. He carried his class wherever he went. He was in Toronto and I later had the chance of co-editing a special issue of Agriculture and Human Values with him. I had a first hand chance to see his commitment to excellence, care for diversity, and respectful guidance of younger colleagues. I will remember him with great respect and admiration.”  - Mustafa Koc, Professor, Department of Sociology; Director, Centre for Studies in Food Security, Toronto Metropolitan University