Dorothy Jane Pratt was one of my father’s cousins. In recent years Jane and I had many interesting e-mail exchanges, including her comments about Paul Wolfowitz, who she didn’t care for when he was in charge of the World Bank, and about her years working for Robert McNamara at the bank. Jane liked McNamara personally, despite the damage done by the Vietnam War, but she said he was “difficult to know.” Here is a remembrance of Jane by The Mountain Institute, an organization that was near and dear to her interests in economic development and the environment.
The Mountain Institute
mourns the passing of Jane Pratt — a staunch advocate for mountain communities and environments around the world.
Jane Pratt passed away on Monday, August 12, 2013, after a remarkable career benefitting mountain communities and environments. From 1994 to 2002 Dr. Pratt was President and CEO of The Mountain Institute where she led a leadership transition, focused the Institute’s mission, and pioneered new programs and partnerships in Asia, Latin America and around the world. Among her many accomplishments, she reoriented the Institute’s development and conservation work using the appreciative inquiry approach, which aims interventions to build more on success rather than respond to problems. She also started the Sacred Mountains Program. During her tenure, Dr. Pratt contributed globally to the cause of mountain sustainable development as a key founder of the Mountain Forum, and through helping coordinate the United Nation’s International Year of the Mountains in 2002. In 2010 she rejoined the Institute as a board member where she was extraordinarily effective and energetic despite failing health.
Between 1979 and 1994, Dr. Pratt served in various executive positions at the World Bank, including as Chief of Environmental Operations and Strategy. She also headed World Bank’s office for the UN Conference on Environment and Development (The Earth Summit – Rio ‘92). While at the Bank, she pushed for transparency and open information access to the public, and promoted critical examination of major infrastructure projects, particularly dams, in terms of their potential environmental and social impacts.
Throughout her career, she published and spoke frequently on environment and development issues. She was a particular advocate for challenges and opportunities related to gender, including serving as an organizer and contributor to the Women of the Mountains conference series hosted by the Utah Valley University and the International University of Kyrgyzstan. Other institutions she has supported, often at board level, include Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the United in Diversity Forum (an Indonesian based non-profit), Aspen International Mountain Foundation, EcoLogicaLLC, and others focused on advancing economic and ecological sustainability.
Above all, Dr. Pratt was an enthusiastic mentor and supporter of people. She shared her knowledge and experience generously, and was deeply loyal to friends and colleagues. In addition, she was a great advocate for education. Dr. Pratt was an important, and proud, supporter of The Mountain Institute’s work in Appalachia at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, where children from underserved communities are provided with a top notch environmental education experience.
Dr. Pratt held a Ph.D. in political science and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and was in one their first cohorts of women admitted into a doctoral program. She also held a certificate in Southeast Asia Area Studies from Yale University, and a BSc in Zoology from University of Michigan. She also received numerous awards and was a member of many professional associations and commissions.
Dr. Pratt is survived by her husband John D. Shilling, and their two daughters, Kaile and Kaitlin; as well as two grandchildren.
The Mountain Institute is committed to continuing Dr. Pratt’s pioneering work on behalf of everyone who benefits from healthy mountain systems around the world. We will miss her warmth, mentorship and tenacious support for mountain issues. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.