The Green Foothills community was saddened to learn of the passing of Donald W. Aitken, Jr, one of our founding members who served on our Board of Directors from 1963 until 1967. He was our second board president, succeeding Wallace Stegner in that office in 1965.
While board president of Green Foothills, along with Pete McCloskey who served as Green Foothills’ attorney at the time, Don strongly contested the PG&E power lines coming down from Skyline through Woodside.
A Recognized Champion of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
In 1969, with David Brower, Don co-founded the international organization, Friends of the Earth, now the largest environmental network in the world. He left Stanford in 1972 to develop California’s first Department of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University, chairing the department for 21 years, concentrating his teaching on renewable energy policy and architecture. During the Carter administration he created and directed a federal program to accelerate the commercialization of solar energy.
Don co-founded the Northern California Solar Energy Association (NCSEA) and served in its leadership. Twice he served as the President of the American Solar Energy Society, and he was Vice President of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES).
In 1991, Don left his university teaching to serve for a decade as Senior Staff Scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists for Renewable Energy. He worked with legislatures and public utilities commissions throughout the United States with special emphasis in California on electric utility restructuring, and he developed energy policy that is now implemented in the EU. Don spoke at multiple international conferences, lecturing on renewable and sustainable energy, receiving many honors for his work over the years, and publishing numerous scientific papers. In his semi-retirement years, he lived in Ajijic, Mexico, where he and his late wife Barbara Harwood (1940-2015), converted the first solar home in the area and encouraged the use of solar energy in that region of Mexico.
Don is survived by his daughters, Sarah Aitken and her husband Greg, of Ashland, Oregon, Katherine Aitken-Young and her wife Kim, of Redwood City, California; five grandchildren, Nick Aitken, Riley Aitken, Morgan Chaknova, Bryn Aitken-Young, and Clay Aitken-Young; his former wife Elizabeth Jacobs Aitken; and his constant companion of the past 6 years, Leslie Kingsbury of Ajijic, Mexico. His daughter Katherine and his granddaughter Morgan are graduates of Green Foothills’ Leadership Program, and Morgan has gone on to volunteer for Green Foothills since.
At our 50th anniversary, the Green Foothills Board of Directors presented Don with a proclamation that we are republishing here for posterity. At that time, he was recognized and celebrated by Green Foothills, “for his long and distinguished service to the many environmental organizations and activities that he has led or contributed to and the many national and international recognitions that he has received, all growing out of, as Don says, the environmental work that began at [Green Foothills].”
A proclamation from Committee for Green Foothills Board of Directors
WHEREAS, Donald Aitken (hereafter “Don”) was the second president of the Committee for Green Foothills (“CGF”), succeeding Wallace Stegner in that office in 1965; and
WHEREAS, Don, while president of CGF, along with CGF’s attorney Pete McCloskey
demonstrated great diligence and inventiveness in strongly contesting the PG&E power lines coming down from Skyline through Woodside; and
WHEREAS, in 1969 Don, along with David Brower and Jerry Mander, founded Friends of the Earth; and
WHEREAS, during the period 1970-1972 Don founded the Environmental Studies
Department at San Jose State University and served as Chair of that department for many years; and
WHEREAS, on the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 Don debated the United States Secretary of the Interior in Alaska regarding the environment; and
WHEREAS, in 1972 Don decided to leave Stanford and physics academia behind and go into environmental studies and environmental design work full time; and
WHEREAS, in 1975 Don conceived the campus wide Project Helios to convert San Jose State University to the use of solar energy; and
WHEREAS, in 1976 Don co-designed the solar library at San Jose State University; and
WHEREAS, Don served for thirty-four years on the faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; and
WHEREAS, in 1979-81 Don directed the United States Department of Energy’s Western Regional Solar Energy Center and in 1980 designed the USDOE’s only day lit and solar heated offices; and
WHEREAS, in 1991 Don left environmental studies academia to become Senior Staff Scientist for Renewable Energy and Policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where, among other tasks, he designed the UCS headquarters building on Harvard Square in Cambridge;
THEREFORE, on the event of celebrating the Committee for Green Foothills 50th Anniversary year,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Committee commends Donald Aitken for his long and distinguished service to the many environmental organizations and activities that he has led or contributed to and the many national and international recognitions that he has received, all growing out of, as Don says, the environmental work that began at CGF.