Remembering former Fresh Energy board chair Steven Hoffman

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Today, we remember our former board chair Steven Hoffman, who passed away November 23 after suffering a stroke a week earlier at the age of 63.

Steve is survived by his sons, Daniel and Michael, and his fiancée, Denise. A funeral service will be held at St. Thomas Chapel at 10:30 am Monday November 30th with a reception to follow service at the Anderson Student Center.

Steve was a professor of Political Science at the University of Saint Thomas and chair of the department for a decade. He was also a founder of the cross-disciplinary environmental studies program at Saint Thomas, and served as its director from 1992-2004.

Steve was elected Fresh Energy’s board chair in 1994, and served for several years during the time it was structured as a coalition. He was chosen by the other directors for his collegiality and ability to balance competing visions and views of organizational members.

Steve maintained a very active scholarship in politics and the environment and was nationally and internationally recognized for his work on many subjects that are (or have been) pressing topics in public affairs.

In 2008, working with Canadian scholar Thibault Martin, Steve edited and published the definitive book of scholarly essays on economic and environmental justice issues surrounding Canadian hydropower in Manitoba and Quebec: Power Struggle: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec. 2008.

From 2005 to 2015, Steve published widely with his colleague Angela High-Pippert on the complexities of community energy, specifically exploring the challenges and limitations of true civic engagement and local ownership. In Minnesota, his interest in community solar gardens was very high and he studied the phenomena closely, even as the movement unfolds and is a current topic on the business page and on regulatory dockets.

The recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline was not predicted a year ago by any expert, but for years Steve  actively mapped and studied the transnational networks of non-governmental organizations, documenting the tactics and campaigns that set the stage for the President’s actions.

On a personal note, in the mid-2000s I spent three weeks with Steve co-leading a study abroad seminar called Sustainable New Zealand, (a good gig if you get the chance.) Up close, I watched Steve’s ability to be a teacher and mentor to young people and see his scholarship woven through his teaching and his leadership of the program.

It was a different Steve than the Fresh Energy volunteer and student of non-profit governance and coalition politics who I worked with so closely in the 1990s.

I think Steve was very comfortable both as a scholar and an environmental activist simultaneously, a tough trick to do both, and do them both with deep integrity. In addition to his passion for energy policy, he was a committed wilderness advocate and defender of clean water.

In lieu of flowers, his family has suggested donations in honor of Steve to Fresh Energy, or to other nonprofits that Steve cherished or served as a volunteer or a director:  Friends of the Boundary Waters WildernessClean Water Action Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio.

On a humorous note, Steve never liked the decision to change the name of the organization to Fresh Energy and he still liked to remind people it used to be called Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a name retired ten years ago. In his official academic CV and on the St. Thomas website acknowledging his passing,  his affiliation with us still appears as Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Environment. That was a common mistake, but it shows why we ditched a name even a former board chair couldn’t quite recall.

For many many years, Steve contributed mightily to the Minnesota clean energy and environmental field both through his scholarship and activism, working with many dozens of our best leaders. I know I speak for many in saying that he will be deeply missed.


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