When John Bryson began his professional life after receiving an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a law degree from Yale, he knew that he would not follow established paths. He created a singular career defined by his dual interests in understanding complicated policy challenges and addressing them with innovative, real solutions. With every opportunity in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors, he confronted new hurdles and overcame each with a combination of creativity and consensus.
|John and Louise Bryson
After law school, John was one of the founders of the Natural Resources Defense Council and helped to shape the NRDC’s environmental protection work. Subsequently, he was asked by Governor Jerry Brown to serve the state of California. First, John chaired the California State Water Resources Control Board during a period of extreme drought, and then he served as President of the California Public Utilities Commission and helped increase the use of alternative energy. After leaving state government, John led Edison International as its Chairman and CEO over nearly two decades that included a national energy crisis, deregulation, and globalization. He distinguished himself as a thoughtful, gifted, and creative leader able to bring people together, even when resources and solutions were in short supply.
John brought his proven, passionate belief in the compatibility of economic growth and environmental protection to national and international roles. He served as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change and as the 37th Commerce Secretary of the United States, appointed by President Barack Obama.
John shared each stage of his public life with his wife, Louise Henry Bryson. Her work in media also spanned an era of significant change. She began by writing and producing documentary films for public television and then, after graduating from Stanford Business School, she worked in the burgeoning cable television business for twenty-five years. Louise is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Public Policy Institute of California. She is the Chair Emerita of the Board of Trustees of The J. Paul Getty Trust.
Both Louise and John are members of the Academy, where the commitment to developing knowledge for the public good and investing in long-term work resonates with their values. The Brysons have given a gift of $5 million to the Academy to support research and study in the fields of science, engineering, and technology, with a particular focus on energy and the environment.
John and Louise have four daughters – Julia, Jane, Ruth, and Kathleen. “Our entire family is committed to the advancement of science and to the protection and preservation of the environment,” said Louise Bryson. “We are truly honored to be able to help sustain the Academy’s work and John’s values in perpetuity with this gift.”
“John’s career epitomized the best in service and leadership in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors,” said Roger Sant, who knows the Brysons well. “One of John’s greatest accomplishments was proving the compatibility of environmental protection and economic growth. This gift to the Academy is a fitting way to honor John’s many contributions to the public good and extend them in innovative and important ways.”
A portion of the Brysons’ gift will be used to endow the John E. Bryson Director of Science, Engineering, and Technology Programs at the Academy. Staff member John Randell will be given that title in support of his work as a senior leader at the Academy, bringing together leading experts across all disciplines for research and recommendations that connect scientific expertise and public policy.
Don M. Randel, former Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors, said the gift “raises our aspirations for the Academy’s current and future initiatives in science, engineering, and technology. We are deeply appreciative of the lasting and significant impact their gift will have on this area of inquiry.”