Classmates Ken Jennings ’76 and Stewart Landefeld ’76 each found their separate ways to the Pacific Northwest from Payne Whitney, where they had many mutual friends and had both spent a lot of time (Ken on the football team, Stewart for crew). Both are continually active in organizing alumni activities, including for the last several years hosting our 70s Luncheons around town.
They each pursue a breadth of interests beyond their day jobs, Ken as an environmental scientist/geologist, and Stewart as partner at law firm Perkins Coie.
1. Describe something you’re currently involved in that’s meaningful to you.
Working with high schoolers through the Urban League to encourage STEM.
2. Please talk about this a bit more. Is there an experience or effort with them that stands out for you?
I have always enjoyed sharing my lifelong passion for science with youngsters who may have a budding interest or those that hadn’t considered science to be an enjoyable pursuit. Another part that stands out is the opportunity to connect dots for them and see them take off from that initial guidance.
3. Tell us a bit about your own entry into STEM — what encouragement or discouragement did you experience?
Had only encouragement. My father would take me to his lab at Howard University where he worked on his zoology thesis. Herbert Zim wrote my favorite books – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Guide.
I brought insects home from my private nature walks. The only limit was when my mother tossed my jar of termites.
In college one of my deans was discouraging at one point. I dismissed his input for two reasons: first, he was no one’s scientist and second, his issue with me was superficial. I think he was unaccustomed to science majors who also studied French lit and played football.
4. Did you ever consider career paths other than science? If so, how did you make the choice?
Not seriously. I chose geology ( paleoecology) over entomology; then chose environmental science over geology based on my evolving interests.
5. On what things have you chosen to become an expert, and what do you do for breadth and variety?
Environmental regulation, particularly its evolution- am currently publishing a quarterly report on environmental requirements across Africa (country by country). For breadth, I’ve written some children’s science books and continue to study languages and Tai Chi.
6. What’s something that might be interesting or useful for fellow Yalies to understand about how environmental regulation evolves?
Generally, environmental regulation starts as a reaction. Bhopal, Love Canal and the hole in the ozone layer are examples. These reactions tend to begin with the point of pollution (the proverbial end of pipe). As regulations mature, they move upstream towards product development and manufacturing process. These regulations focus more on pollution avoidance rather than pollution response, and so are more proactive. The EU Directive 2011/65/EU (restrictions on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment) is an example of this.
1. Describe something you’re part of that’s meaningful to you. What compelled you to join?
I moved to Seattle permanently in 1980, in part because I thought that Seattle and the Pacific Northwest were such an involved city and region in which each of us would be welcome to, and could productively, play a part. So from the first, I’ve been active in organizations that try to enrich daily life in Seattle and our region. Two that I care deeply about are the Plymouth Housing Group (which provides permanent “Supportive Housing”, with key wrap-around services, for an ever-increasing number, now about 1,000, of the formerly homeless), and the Seattle Art Museum, which operates three wonderful sites – – the Downtown Museum (with Hammering Man), the Olympic Sculpture Park (with Calder’s Eagle) , and the Seattle Asian Art Museum (next to Noguchi’s Black Sun – – west coast cousin to Noguchi’s White Sun at Beinecke) in Volunteer Park.
2. What do you think characterizes the community of the Pacific Northwest that makes it feel more “involved”?
For reasons that I am not 100% sure, but that I attribute in part to the fact that we are in a corner of the country and people often to have make up their minds to come (or stay) here, we are a very volunteer-y place. Folks are willing to take a chance and join in a civic effort.
3. Is there anything about civic life here that could be better?
Well while I do get a little tired of Seattle “process” I also feel that it really helps us to be inclusive.
4. Have your philanthropic extracurriculars ever influenced or informed your approach to your career as a lawyer?
I have always thought that my job as a lawyer was to explain complicated things in simple plain English. So serving on non-profit boards has allowed me to hear a lot of other experts who do not always talk in a way that I can understand. So this in turn re-affirms my goal, and teaches me a lot about how people listen, learn and make decisions when I am advising a for-profit Board as a lawyer.
5. How have you enabled yourself to take on commitments outside of work without it becoming too much?
I just force myself to schedule things and when the time comes (whether it is a music lesson or a non-profit Board meeting) I try to just do it.
6. What are some pivotal moments that sparked a sense of purpose for you?
Not sure about that. Maybe volunteering as a kid at a small urban adult family home for folks with emotional and mental needs. I also think being at Yale while maturing played a part in the interplay of mission, duty and capability; and seeing the amazing things that individual people with those things can do.
7. What’s one issue that you’d like to galvanize more fellow Yalies to care more deeply about, and how might they dip a toe in the water in order to gain a better understanding of and intuition for the issue?
In Seattle, housing and affordable housing at all levels is a huge Puget Sound area need — and it is an addressable need. There are many organizations that are working on housing (from supportive single adult to below-market rate affordable to youth to family to low income housing advocacy). Find one of those that speaks to your interest, where you can help in some way on a Board or committee and start to volunteer and learn.