BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Friends and supporters of the late Jim Jontz, an influential environmentalist and former member of Congress, are endowing a scholarship in his memory at his alma mater, Indiana University.
The Congressman James P. Jontz Scholarship for Environmental Advocacy will be awarded to students at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs thanks to a gift by husband and wife Mike Mullett and Patricia March.
"There was just something special about him," said Mullett, a friend of Jontz. "Jim was a man of action driven by his strongly held beliefs in protecting our environment, achieving social justice and enabling broad-based citizen participation in government. He was also a person proud of deep roots in Indiana whose beliefs were a product of his Hoosier heritage. We need more men and women like Jim.
"Ultimately, we would like to see a whole team of people coming to IU from every walk of life, studying hard and graduating, and then going out into the world and emulating Jim Jontz in what they do," Mullett said.
Jontz grew up in Indianapolis and went to Indiana University, where he emerged as an eco-activist, co-founding the Indiana Public Interest Research Group as a senior project. A year after graduating in 1973, Jontz won a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives, where he served for 10 years before moving to the Indiana Senate and later the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jontz's annual strategy meetings of Indiana conservationists led to the formation of the Hoosier Environmental Council. His passion for the environment in the 1970s led to positions with the Indiana Eco-Coalition, the Indiana Conservation Council and other groups.
After his run in Indiana politics ended, in 1993, Jontz moved to the Pacific Northwest and took leadership positions on the front lines of campaigns to protect forests, sometimes engaging in acts of civil disobedience to stop clearcutting. He died in 2007, regarded as one of the most effective leaders of the modern environmental movement.
"Jim was a tireless advocate and a true public servant," said Elaine Emmi, an environmentalist who was married to Jontz. "He devoted his life to making the world a better place for everyone ... for people, for animals, for trees, for all nature. He was a force of nature, who combined his passions for policy and justice and didn't back down."
March and Mullett, a retired attorney and IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law graduate, worked alongside Jontz on some of those efforts to protect Indiana's environment.They were longtime friends, supporters, allies and admirers of Jontz during his life. A decade after his death, they decided to honor his life's work by endowing a scholarship to recognize Jontz and help tomorrow's environmental advocates. Mullett and March are urging those active in environmental advocacy groups and in Indiana political circles to join them in contributing to the Jontz scholarship fund.
SPEA applicants and undergraduates with financial need and good academic records who have demonstrated their commitment to protection of the environment are eligible and encouraged to apply for the scholarship. SPEA is a fitting institution to award the scholarship not only because it is the public and environmental affairs school at Jontz's alma mater but because it is home to the nation's No. 1 graduate program in environmental policy, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report in 2018.
"We are so grateful to Mike and Patti for this generous gift and for their challenge to others to contribute to the scholarship fund," SPEA Dean John D. Graham said. "Our students would do well to follow in the footsteps of Congressman Jontz, and this scholarship will smooth their path."
This gift counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, taking place on all IU-administered campuses, including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude in June 2020 to coincide with IU's bicentennial year celebration. To learn more about the campaign, its impact and how to participate, visit forall.iu.edu.