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Alum Skip Laitner: A Life Devoted to Service and Engagement

John “Skip” Laitner, who attended Simpson College during the tumultuous years of the late 1960s, feels his time at Simpson has always been at the core of his persona. Laitner recalled, “Among other fun things in the 1960s, I was on the student judiciary group that helped write a new Student Conduct Code; and I was then the first person tried under that new code – for being in a woman’s room in one of the campus dormitories. My, my, how times have changed!” Laitner also served as the Cultural Events Chairman on campus, which started the Blackfriars Film Festival to raise funds to support the theatre and to introduce the campus to alternative and foreign films. The group opened a coffee house in the basement of the Little Chapel to give students a place to mingle and to talk about politics and the world around them. Debates were organized as part of that coffee house effort. That included a particularly engaging debate about the nature of fraternities and sororities and their value to campus living. And for a brief period of time they published an underground newspaper called, The Sacred Cow. This was all part of an effort to engage a more communityspirited environment on campus which provided Laitner with a core of experiences that still shape much of his efforts today. Laitner graduated from the University of Iowa and received a Master’s Degree in Resource Economics from Antioch University. He has worked for over 40 years in the energy and climate policy arenas, currently as the Director of Social and Economic Analysis for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a 45-person think tank based in Washington, DC. He previously served 10 years as a Senior Economist for Technology Policy for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Laitner was honored in 1998 and awarded EPA's Gold Medal – that agency’s highest honor – for his work with a team of other EPA economists to evaluate the impact of different strategies that might assist in the implementation of greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies. He was among the hundreds of people who helped lay the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol in Climate Change in 1997. In 2003, the US Combined Heat and Power Association gave him an award to acknowledge his contributions to the policy development of that critical industry. In 2004 his paper, “How Far Energy Efficiency?” catalyzed new research into the proper characterization of efficiency as a long-term resource. The author or co-author of nearly 300 reports, journal articles, and book chapters, Laitner also served as the co-editor of a recent book, People-Center Initiatives for Increasing

Energy Savings. He has lectured at technical seminars around the world and has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of Oregon. Laitner entered Simpson College as a religion and theatre major, but was led to community activism, driven by the desire to explore positive solutions to many of the social, economic, and environmental problems of the time as “there seemed to be little choice but to be involved. Whether I worked to help secure running water for low-income and minority neighborhoods in what was then called the Southeast Bottoms in Des Moines, or whether it was organizing anti-Vietnam war protests in Des Moines, social service was a critical need, and it became very much a way of life.” And while he is a practicing economist, the arts and the human dimensions remain at the core of his personal and professional activities. “Whether we are successful as individual or as professionals, it all comes down to communities. We are connected and we are either enabled or constrained by the success of others around us. So it is very important that we contribute to the larger well-being of others and the communities around us,” Laitner added. Laitner feels that the single best value offered by the Culver Center is that it provides a basis and the opportunity for students to test and try new things. The Culver Center didn’t exist in the 1960s when Laitner attended Simpson; however, the center is there now to provide the tools and networks to help get students civically engaged. Passing on his life view to his daughter in, who is beginning her PhD in health psychology, Laitner tells her that networks and communities matter. “If you want to make a difference and if you want to really get ahead in a satisfying way, the very best thing you can do is build and maintain friendships and work to build networks that you support and might support you in return. Maintain them over your very full life. You can never tell how unexpectedly good things might happen even years after you first meet somebody. And the golden rule still matters. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Laitner said. Laitner claims two hometowns, Chicago, Illinois and Tucson, Arizona, where he is spending a year in sabbatical. For a sense of desert inspiration, see his Desert Year blog, How Flowers Changed the World

John C. Culver Public Policy Center Simpson College 701 North C Street Indianola, IA 50125 515-961-1354