Dr. Daniel Robison

Future Generations University
Professor & Director of Practice,
mentor, and friend

With sadness, we share the news of the death of important Future Generations professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Daniel Robison, professor and director of practice, announced President Francis L. Day. Dan Robison passed away June 18, 2024.

As the news of Dan’s passing reaches people across the globe, numerous outpourings honoring his memory and joy of life have been shared. Future Generations University Founder and Board Chair Daniel C. Taylor said, “Dan joined the Future Generations Master’s degree faculty in 2004 with his talented wife, Sheila McKean. They met in England when both doing their PhD in agriculture; they worked for a decade with Center for International Agriculture Research, before homesteading in the Amazon jungle of Bolivia [where Dan grew up and lived]. 

‘Dan-and-Sheila’ (we always referred to the two as one) became central to bridging learning from deep scholarship to practical applications. Together, they worked to restore vibrant ecology of the Amazon with management practice based in science that optimized quality of life for the people. Sheila sadly died a decade ago in Namibia. In memory of Sheila, Dan established the ‘Sheila Scholarship Fund at Future Generations for African Women.’
Dan mentored students to experiment and grow solutions. Plant, monitor, plant better, study the whole system impacts. He did this with chocolate cultivation in the Amazon jungle. He managed a cattle herd similarly. He developed an eco-friendly inside-the-jungle golf course so tourists could play their game and local people would get jobs. He was politically active for just reforms of the Bolivian government to give people’s authentic inclusive voices. 

As a professor with Future Generations University, his impact was worldwide. Very personalized in his mentoring of students, he coached each to rise to ever higher standards.”
Dr. Robison has the distinction of having taught courses in each Future Generations cohort.

A few immediate reflections from his students include Daniel Ortiz who wrote, “He was a wonderful professor and scientist. I will miss him dearly!” Tjivekumba Kandjii said, “I will surely miss his ongoing support for my wild peacebuilding ideas. Rest in power, Professor. You were such a wonderful person.” Pir Mohammad Paya shared, “He was indeed a great teacher and friend. We will never forget his valuable contributions/support and the great memories.”

Dan was born and grew up in Bolivia. He was an exchange student in Thailand and before finishing undergraduate studies, he hitchhiked across Africa from North to South with his sister, Ann. After graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in natural resources management in 1984, he was appointed Marshall Scholar to the United Kingdom. In 1987 he obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Reading, with fieldwork in tropical Bolivia.
Nuwayina Sekenwa Briska (Nigeria), Class of 2019, shared, “I was so sad to read the passing away of Prof. Robinson. Future Generation University and its faculty has shaped me in many ways especially Robinson with Agriculture. As a result of his motivation, I now have more than 20 banana and plantain plants in my yard. I have also motivated others to do the same. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and that of other friends from my neighborhood.”

His life’s work was the sustainable use of the Amazon. He lived and farmed in Rurrenabaque, the Bolivian gateway to the Amazon and to Madidi National Park. Dan was pivotal in strategic planning for conservation across Latin America. His studies and fieldwork focused on finding sustainable alternatives to traditional farming methods that often lead to deforestation. His role in the management plans for places like the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve was critical in balancing the needs of local communities with the imperative of biodiversity preservation.

Dr. Robison’s achievements include:

  • Development of sustainable land management strategies that have been implemented in over 4 million hectares across Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil.
  • The strategic planning and implementation of management plans for several major national parks and ecological reserves in Bolivia.
  • Establishment of innovative agricultural practices on his experimental farm near Rurrenabaque, demonstrating successful sustainable farming in tropical environments.
Bindu Pun (Nepal), Class of 2024, wrote, “This is one of the saddest pieces of news I have ever received. I am forever grateful for his support, guidance, and mentoring. The way he gently included us (silent students) in group discussions, even by calling our names, was one of the greatest encouragement and attention I have ever received, and it was the only way to make me speak. If you asked for an idea, he would give you a bundle of possibilities! His detailed feedback and suggestions have always been insightful for academic performance as well as for improving professionalism. I will always remember him as an influential and impactful person in my life.”
Dan was an integral part of Future Generations University. He was known for introducing himself to new faculty and staff by saying, “I’ve taught in the Master’s program every year since its inception,” expressing his pride and commitment to the University and its students. Chief Academic Officer Kelli Fleming said, “Dan lived his life with purpose – from his chocolate farm and sustainable stewardship of the Bolivian rainforest to his guidance for learners through their Master’s journey. Personally, I will miss his wise counsel regarding pedagogy and travel tips.” 

The Robison family hosted a memorial service for Dan at the Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kemff Mercado in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, June 22, 2024. View the Spanish-language service at https://www.facebook.com/share/v/kzH1gGuKwHLn1e3Z.

Laura Altobelli PhD (Peru and USA), Research Professor, said, “How sad for Dan Robison’s family, friends, Bolivia, Future Generations, and the world. He was an honorable person dedicated to sustainable environmental development. Dan has left behind an important legacy for others to carry on.”

Dan’s devotion to the environment and its peoples, his gentle guidance, and his breadth of knowledge will be greatly missed. Please join us in sharing your memories of Dan online at https://www.facebook.com/share/p/evnuin47VFineLBr.
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