You are here

Honoring the Life of Dr. Kenton R. Miller (1939 – 2011)

The World Resources Institute is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Kenton Miller, an environmentalist, conservationist, leader and friend.

Dr. Miller was beloved by his peers as a warm and upbeat colleague, and a leading advocate for nature, forests and ecosystems. He was renowned as a global leader in international protected area conservation.

Dr. Miller came to WRI in 1988 to serve as the director of the Biological Resources Program, and he was the Vice President for International Conservation and Development from 2000 to 2004. At WRI, he was responsible for shaping the organization’s early strategy on international land use and conservation. One of his lasting accomplishments was the Global Biodiversity Strategy, a cooperative effort among governments, NGOs, communities and UN agencies. He also made significant contributions to the UNEP Global Biodiversity Assessment and his work informed the development of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Dr. Miller retired from WRI in January 2004.

Prior to WRI, Dr. Miller served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 1983 to 1988. At IUCN, Dr. Miller played a significant role in the design and implementation of three IUCN World Parks Congresses (1982, 1992 and 2003). He served as chair of the World Conservation Union's World Commission on Protected Areas from 1976 to 1983, a role he reprised from 2000 to 2004, and as Secretary General of the Third World Parks Congress in 1982.

Dr. Miller won numerous awards and received extensive recognition for his contributions to world conservation. In 2005, he was honored with the Bruno H. Schubert Environment Prize for his lifetime dedication to national parks and conservation. He was a recipient of an honorary doctorate from the International University of Costa Rica, and the Order of the Golden Ark. The WCPA Kenton Miller Award for Innovation in Protected Areas Management is presented annually, honoring innovation in communications, planning and management, finance and economics, assessment, monitoring, and evaluation, learning and capacity building, or governance.

Dr. Miller is survived by his wife, Susan, three children and two grandchildren.

Following are some remembrances of Dr. Kenton Miller from former and current WRI staff:

“Kenton was a gentle lion of conservation. There was no wilderness so remote that you would not run into a disciple of Kenton’s in a sweat stained shirt and beaten up hat, out in the boonies, trying to learn about and protect nature. One park ranger in Venezuela gasped, ‘I feel like I am meeting the patron saint of protected areas.’ He was, simply, one of the most wonderful people ever to work here.” -- Jonathan Lash, President

Upon meeting Kenton, one park ranger in Venezuela gasped, ‘I feel like I am meeting the patron saint of protected areas.’ He was, simply, one of the most wonderful people ever to work here.”

---Jonathan Lash

“Kenton gave me my first real job, and was an unfailing mentor, colleague and friend, as well as a true conservation leader, ahead of his time in this thinking. Lots of things I hear people saying are new approaches to protected areas and conservation these days, I find myself thinking ‘Kenton taught me that 20 years ago!’ He will be missed by very many people, as a leader and as a friend.” -- Charles Barber, Dept. of State (formerly with WRI)

“I'll never forget Kenton for the many publications we worked on and his enthusiasm to make sure that information was getting into the hands of people all over the globe— resulting in many, many translations. Last time I saw him here in the office he was as gentle and kind as ever ... and he had just recently received an award which, of course, he thought reflected the work of everyone he had worked with. It was an honor to know him.” -- Hyacinth Billings, Publications Director

“I spent 10 years at WRI during which time I shared a common office wall with Kenton from 1992 until 1998, when I left … Once the day had ended, he would often poke his head into my office or invite me into his office to ask me how my family was doing, what I was working on, how it was going, and most importantly, if I thought it was working? … He never fed me an answer, preached at me, nor belittled me for being young and naive (which I was). But he always gave me insight about how to tackle whatever I was grappling with, be it of a personal or professional nature. He would also then tell me to go home!

“That was one of Kenton's many gifts: knowing how to mentor young upstarts who didn't know that they needed mentoring. And when to call it a day.” -- Bruce Cabarle, WWF (formerly with WRI)

“Some of my best memories of WRI were after I moved into Policy Affairs and worked with Kenton Miller and the Biodiversity team - and participated with Kenton and WRI colleagues at the Biodiversity COPs in the Bahamas, Indonesia, Slovakia, and the IUCN meeting in Montreal. Kenton was a wonderful and enthusiastic mentor for many of us. And just a great guy to hang out with.” -- Laura Lee Dooley, Online Engagement Architect and Strategist

“I only met Kenton once, during my first year at WRI, so he is more of a legend than anything to me. I hear stories of his influence and access. And I hear that he had gravitas and humility; quite a combination when you want others to listen to you. But, perhaps most importantly, he was a gentle man and a gentleman.” -- Craig Hanson, Director, People and Ecosystem Services

“Kenton was one of the most genuine and just plain nicest individuals one could ever be associated with.” -- Peter Hazelwood, Director, Ecosystems and Development

I am but one of many who were fundamentally shaped by Kenton’s vision, passion, and commitment for conservation as a foundation for human quality of life.

--- Nels Johnson

“I’ve worked for many people over the years but none finer than Kenton. His impact on me as a person and a professional was profound. He was a giant in the conservation community. He was a teacher, a mentor, a humanist, and a thought leader, but he was absolutely committed to converting ideas into action. Above all else, he was persistent. Kenton had a hard time speaking ill of anyone and it showed. I traveled the world with Kenton from San Jose, Costa Rica, and Nairobi, Kenya, to Oslo, Norway and Bangalore, India and many other places in between on five continents. Without exception, we met people who knew Kenton or had encountered him in any number of capacities and they uniformly greeted him as one of their most esteemed colleagues and friends. I am but one of many who were fundamentally shaped by Kenton’s vision, passion, and commitment for conservation as a foundation for human quality of life.” -- Nels Johnson, The Nature Conservancy (formerly with WRI)

“We (as a human community) have lost one of the best. Kenton was one of the most kind and most gentle men that I worked with - but strong in his convictions and commitment to preserving the environment that we share. His smile and laugh would light up the room. It's sad to know that the light has now been dimmed but, given his legacy, it will never go totally dark.” -- Nancy Kiefer, Director of Facilities and Office Services

Kenton was one of the most kind and most gentle men that I worked with - but strong in his convictions and commitment to preserving the environment that we share.

--- Nancy Kiefer

“When I joined WRI in 1992 Kenton Miller was my Program Director. I was young, arrogant, and very inexperienced. Kenton watched as I made mistake after mistake and always offered calm, patient mentoring. He worked magic with our Latin American partners … He was a master at partnership building and his warmth was felt by all. He loved his work and all the people he worked with. He was a true visionary. We have lost a leader, thinker and friend who inspired us all.” -- Nigel Sizer, Director, International Forests Initiative

“I remember him well as a wonderful and soft spoken, yet energetic and enthusiastic leader. He was committed to conservation goals, and also very engaging with people – I can see him smiling broadly and encouraging folks with a hand on their shoulder.” -- Bob Winterbottom, Director, Ecosystem Services Initiative

"Kenton Miller was a giant of a man and a kind and thoughtful leader. I had the good fortune to visit a remote village in Latin America where Kenton had worked and where the people all remembered his work and cherished his memory. Kenton was a wonderful colleague, a gentle man and a committed conservationist. His knowledge of the natural environment and his desire to preserve and protect it, and his love of his work and his fellow beings was touching and infectious. He will be missed by many whose lives he touched all over the world." –- Sarah Burns, NGO Liaison, 1990-1995

To contribute to Dr. Miller’s legacy, following are two causes (both of which have tax deductible status) which were near and dear to his heart: The Kenton Miller Award for Innovation in Protected Areas Sustainability. To donate, visit, and click on the donate button on the right side of the page. Please indicate on the Paypal site that you would like the donation to go to the Kenton R. Miller Award.

The Kenton Miller Latin American Chair for Protected Areas and Biological Corridors at CATIE, the graduate school serving the entire hemisphere in Costa Rica, where Dr. Miller began his professional career. Donations from the U.S. are most easily made through the Tropics Foundation. Please note what the donations are for. Send donations to: The Tropics Foundation, 4200 Northside Parkway, Building 7, Atlanta, Georgia 30327, or on-line donations can be made at:

Stay Connected