University Fellow
Resources for the Future

 Paul Portney


Graham Institute for Sustainability, University of Michigan, Advisory Board Member


Paul R. Portney retired in May of 2014 from the University of Arizona.  From 2005-2011 he was dean of the university's Eller College of Management.  In that position he had overall responsibility for the college's nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students, a faculty and staff numbering nearly 600 and an annual budget of about $45 million.  During his time as dean, and with the help of many talented people, Portney oversaw the creation of the Eller College's new Executive MBA program, led its development of a new campus in Phoenix for the Executive and Evening MBA programs there, and saw the College's Undergraduate and MBA programs ranked in the top ten among public universities.  After stepping down as dean, Portney taught economics for three years at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Most of Portney's professional career was spent at Resources for the Future (RFF), an independent and non-partisan research organization in Washington, DC., specializing in energy and environmental issues.  He joined the research staff there in 1972, became one of its division directors in 1986, was named Vice President in 1989 and was elected President in 1995.  As a researcher his work dealt primarily with the estimation of the benefits and costs of federal regulatory programs, including techniques to value the damages to natural resources associated with oil spills and other accidents.  During his time as president, RFF's research staff grew in size and influence, communication of the results of its work was broadened considerably and the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002 with a successful $30 million capital campaign.

He has held visiting teaching positions at both the University of California-Berkeley (1977-79) and Princeton University (1992-94).  From 1979-1980 he was Chief Economist at the Council on Environmental Quality within the Executive Office of the President.  In 2005 he was named as one of the 100 most-cited scholars in economics and business. Currently, Portney serves on the board of directors of Empire District Electric, a publicly-traded (NYSE:EDE) electric and gas utility headquartered in Joplin, MO.  He serves on Empire's Security and Strategic Projects Committee and also  its Compensation Committee.  Since 1999 he has served on the board of trustees of The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, one of the charitable arms of the Johnson family of Racine, WI.

Portney resides in Santa Barbara, CA, with his wife, Chris, an officer in the Admissions department of the University of Arizona.  He is fighting (and eventually will lose) a battle to keep his golf handicap in single digits. 


BA: Economics, Alma College
PhD: Economics, Northwestern University