With deep regret, Tyler School of Art of Temple University shared the passing of Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities and Professor of Research in the Department of Planning and Community Development in the Division of Architecture and Environmental Design. He passed away on Saturday, May 7, 2016.
Jeff joined Temple University in 2001 as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. He was appointed as the founding Chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning (today Planning and Community Development) in October 2002 and served in that capacity until August 2006. As director of the Center and chair of the department, he helped lay the groundwork for sustainability education and research at Temple for years to come.
A specialist in water resources management and dispute resolution, Jeff arrived at Temple with decades of experience. Prior to arriving at Temple, he was Deputy Executive Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission from 1982 to 2001. The DRBC is an interstate agency responsible for management of water resources in the 13,000-square-mile area drained by the Delaware River and Delaware Bay.
Prior to his time with the DRBC, he was Planning Director for the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission and Water Resources Planner and Hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In 1992, Jeff, who received his Ph.D. in Public Policy from Temple University, served as a member of the Long’s Peak Working Group in 1992, an advisory body to President-elect Bill Clinton on national water policy and sustainability. The group’s final report, entitled: “America’s Waters: A New Era of Sustainability,” served as the starting point for the administration’s policy and regulatory agenda.
Born in Redwing and then raised in Winona, Minnesota, Jeff’s expertise was internationally recognized, though his Midwestern modesty prevented him from ever thinking of himself in those terms. His knowledge, problem solving skills and keen interest in travel, however, took him all over the world.
In 1995, he served as a ranking member of the U.S. Water Resources Delegation to China — he has since advised Chinese government officials on water conservation and sustainability issues.
A valued member of the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) for more than a decade, he participating in international conferences in Poland and Russia and chaired the organization’s conference in Brisbane, Australia in 2013.
In 2015, Jeff led an international team of city planners to explore and recommend revitalization efforts in the West Bank of the Jordan River. He also provided technical assistance to a second team in the Gaza Strip. The United Nations-approved project was spearheaded by the ISOCARP in cooperation with UN-Habitat and the UN Development Programme.
For Jeff, “sustainability” wasn’t a buzzword. It was an avocation. In 2003, seeing the need to provide an opportunity for sustainable education to young people, he helped to create EarthFest, Temple’s outdoor celebration of Earth Day, and has supported its mission ever since. On April 22, he helped welcome 6,500 visitors to campus and more than 90 exhibitors for a full day of learning how to protect and preserve the environment.
Often the smartest man in the room, he never made anyone feel like they weren’t part of the solution. He always ensured that the whole was always greater than sum of its parts. He was a friend and sounding board to every faculty member and research fellow in the Center and throughout Temple. He was a mentor to every student he taught and every Center research assistant.
Jeff was ahead of his time in the work that he did, helping many local and international communities through his practice-based research. He was hands-on and on-site for every project. Through his teaching, he profoundly impacted the next generation of researchers and planners with this results-oriented work.
A member of Temple’s $1 Million Research Club, Jeff led projects in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties to ensure healthy drinking water, provide municipalities the tools to avoid the damaging effects of flooding, provide effective transportation, ensure food equity and support viable, sustainable communities for today and tomorrow. The Center’s stormwater management research in the Pennypack Creek and Brandywine watersheds and other regions of the state led to complete floodplain remapping by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As director of the Center, Jeff secured more than $10 million in research grants and successfully completed over 30 research projects. Jeff has ensured the future success of the Center for the next several years as research fellows, faculty and students continue comprehensive projects throughout the region. By June 2016, the Center will have secured well over $2.8 million in grants during this fiscal year alone.
Jeff was quick to share his knowledge but just as quick to avoid any accolades that might come from it. He has served on review boards for professional associations and he has been published in conference proceedings or professional journals of the American Water Works Association, American Political Science Association, Universities Council on Water Resources, American Water Resources Association, and National Ground Water Association.
For everyone who had the opportunity to work with him, everyone who he befriended, he made their lives better for being a part of it. He brought out the best in people — their best work and their best selves. He gave faculty and students the quiet guidance to see where the finish line was for any project and then find the best solutions to get there.
Though soft spoken, he was always quick with a laugh — a loud, booming explosion of joy that invited everyone to join in. He was someone you felt honored to know and someone who could always be counted on to provide insight and encouragement.
Jeff Featherstone was an essential part of the Temple University community and for everything he has done, his dedication to the University, the region and the world, he will be missed.
The Jeffrey Featherstone Memorial Scholarship has been established by the planning faculty in his honor. The funds will be used to support a graduate student in the Master of Science in City and Regional Planning program who shares Jeff’s passion for sustainable water resources management. Contributions to the Featherstone Memorial Scholarship may be sent or given to Mollie Repetto or Dr. Lynn Mandarano at Tyler School of Art of Temple University, 2001 N. 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122.