Wege Surprise Honors Dr. Jonathan Bulkley

To Peter Wege, Jonathan is not only a gifted scholar, teacher, and researcher, but he is also one of Peter’s closest friends. They first met in Lansing in 1991 when Dr. Bulkley and Greg Keoleian, his Ph.D student at the time, invited Peter to serve as the new NPPC’s first board chair. Thus began a professional collaboration and personal relationship between the academician in Ann Arbor and the business man in Grand Rapids that continues on.


Pictured above, next to the sign inviting guests to Dr. Bulkley’s retirement seminar in the Dana Building, is Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation. While Jonathan planned the panel discussion given by his former students, he knew nothing about Ellen’s surprise announcement. She told the full auditorium of Jonathan’s family, friends, fans, and students that Peter Wege and The Wege Foundation were establishing the “Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professorship in Sustainable Systems Fund.”

The award will go to a faculty member who is actively advancing the research and educational mission of SNRE and the Center for Sustainable Systems. The honoree will be given the Sustainability Professorship named for Dr. Bulkley. Ellen’s second surprise from The Wege Foundation is an endowment to support Ph.D. students in the dual Ph.D. program between the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering and the SNRE.


Pictured above is the panel of five former graduate students spanning Professor Jonathan Bulkley’s 43 years with the University of Michigan’s SNRE. The five SNRE graduates from across the country shared their academic memories and environmental wisdom at Dr. Bulkley’s retirement ceremonies. From the left: SNRE Professor Steve Yaffee, Sari Sommarstrom, Ph.D., environmental consultant managing California’s first water trust; Phil Metzger, attorney for the U.S. EPA’s deputy administrator; Susan MacKenzie, Ph.D., teaching in the Environmental Studies Department at Colby College; Julie Zimmerman, Ph.D., associate joint professorship at Yale’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Their individual testimonies on how Jonathan Bulkley shaped their lives had common themes. As teachers he taught them accessibility. “He was never too busy to meet.” They learned from him how to respect their own students. “Jonathan listened attentively to us…that built confidence and inspired creative problem solving.” “You taught us how to think.”

On a personal note, each spoke of Jonathan as a family role model in his commitment to his wife – and Mother Goose storyteller! – Trudy. Susan MacKenzie told the crowd that when she was pregnant as a grad student working out of a deteriorating room in the old Dana Building, she came in one Monday to find Dr. Bulkley had painted her office over the weekend. “He worried about the peeling paint.”

But the two most repeated words about Dr. Bulkley from his five former students and from the audience members who spoke seemed to summarize the man himself. “Honesty.” “Integrity.”