Monday, March 11, 2024

In Memoriam: Joanne Denworth, Environmental Leader And Attorney

On March 1, 2024, Joanne Denworth, 85, died of Alzheimer's disease. She built a pioneering career as a land use and environmental lawyer and provided decades of leadership on environmental issues in Pennsylvania.

More about her accomplishments will be posted-- this is a start from her obituary--

A graduate of Vassar College (’60) and one of only a handful of women in her class at Penn Law School (’63), she built a pioneering career as a land use and environmental lawyer. 

She was the kind of environmentalist who was passionate but practical, excelling at both innovative ideas and real-world solutions. 

Her goal was to bring people together and get them talking and collaborating, and she succeeded. 

[From 1975 to 1979 she served as a judge on the then new state Environmental Hearing Board, the first level of appeal of DEP actions.]

Beginning in 1986, Joanne served for 12 years as President and Executive Director of the non-profit Pennsylvania Environmental Council, transforming it from a small office in Philadelphia to a vibrant entity with five offices across the state, 28 employees and six times the budget. 

[In 1999] she then founded and led 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide alliance of more than 200 organizations. 

In both jobs, she worked to revitalize cities and towns, reform land use law, enhance urban environments and protect open spaces. 

[Denworth is co-author and editor of Guiding Growth (1993), a growth management handbook for municipalities; and she is the primary author of Planning Beyond Boundaries (2002), a manual on multi-municipal planning and implementation.

[She also taught at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of City and Regional Planning.]

In 2003, she was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell as Senior Policy Manager in the Governor’s Policy Office. 

She was the Governor’s chief liaison with agencies on policies and programs related to land use, community and economic development, environmental protection, transportation and infrastructure, agriculture, historic preservation and parks and recreation. 

She (grudgingly) retired in her early 70s. 

She received too many honors and awards to list but a few of the highlights were Woman of Distinction from The Philadelphia Business Journal, Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania (awarded by Gov. Tom Ridge), The Good Samaritan Award from Pennsylvania Hospital, The Learned Hand Award for Community Service from the American Jewish Committee (given to her and Ray jointly), and leadership awards from the Pennsylvania Bar Association and Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. 

[In 2007, Denworth received the Curtin Winsor Award from the PA Environmental Council for her life-long environmental leadership and for expanding the Council’s work.  Read more here.

[Gov. Rendell said at the time of this honor-- “Joanne Denworth could truly be the Joan of Arc of the environmental movement. She has been an effective advocate for environmental progress who never lost sight of her goal of protecting and improving the environment whether working in or out of government. Every Pennsylvanian owes her a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

[In 2008, the PA Historical and Museum Commission presented Denworth with its first Visionary in Historic Preservation Award to recognize her expertise in land use and the environment to further historic preservation efforts in Pennsylvania.   Read more here.]

Celebration of Life

There will be a celebration of Joanne Denworth's life on April 13 from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Marriott Old City in Philadelphia.

Click Here to read the entire obituary.


Former DEP Secretary James M. Seif said of her-- “Joanne Denworth was a real 'class act.' As a person she was affable, intelligent and fun to know and to work with. As an advocate, she always had the facts, and didn't have to shout or use scare tactics."

Former DEP Secretary David Hess said-- “Joanne Denworth’s career paralleled my own in state government.  She was a constant source of leadership and great ideas and analysis that I relied on often in dealing with the environmental issues facing the Commonwealth.

“Her ability to bring people together and find solutions became a hallmark of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council that continues today.”

[Posted: March 11, 2024] 
PA Environment Digest

No comments:

Post a Comment