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Leonard P. Hirsch, Ph.D.  In Tribute: Leonard P. Hirsch, Ph.D.  1955 - 2015

In Memory: A Tribute to Len Hirsch - GEO Champion


Some lives never really fade, and for that we are grateful.

Len Hirsch left such a legacy.

Len died on June 12 of a rare form of lymphoma. Dr. Kristian Fauchald, his loving spouse and partner of 33 years, died just weeks before.

Len was an intrepid scientific explorer, a provocative educator, and an unflinching champion of human rights. His zest for all life was contagious. Len never saw a glass as being half full, or half empty. For Len, the glass  always overflowed.

To the USGEO and GEO communities, Len brought passion and perseverance. He was a pioneering force, first in negotiations at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and later as an essential member of the U.S. team that helped establish GEO in 2005. He sought vitality in every GEO Work Plan, prodding value for people and ecology. Len contributed substantially to the development of GEO BON and the Global Forest Observations Initiative. With the Smithsonian Institution as host, he played a pivotal role in bringing the 2009 GEO Plenary to Washington, DC. In 2014, when the U.S. called for another decade of GEO, Len’s spirited voice framed the U.S. statement.

As senior policy advisor at the Smithsonian for 26 years, Len worked tirelessly to carve new value streams for conservation, and gave generously of all he learned. He bridged science with policy, and with the arts and humanities. He greatly elevated the Smithsonian’s visibility as a center of global scientific research that modeled the future, rather than just exhibiting the past.

Nowhere is Len’s footprint deeper than in the area of human rights. During his first year at the Smithsonian, he organized a meeting of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender U.S. government employees that emerged as Federal GLOBE. As founding president for more than 10 years, Len spearheaded GLOBE chapters across the U.S. government.  He laid the groundwork for President Clinton’s Executive Order banning sexual orientation discrimination in the federal workplace.

Our thoughts are with Len's family and the many around the world who treasured Len’s friendship and his insightful, distinct and always entertaining perspectives. With profound sorrow, but enduring admiration and heartfelt appreciation, we honor Len's life.


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