Dr. Dr. Kent Edward Portney

dr. kent portney

January 1, 1951 ~ June 13, 2020

Born in: Fort Dix, NJ
Resided in: College Station, Texas

Kent Edward Portney passed suddenly on June 13, 2020 at age 69 in College Station, TX. Dr. Portney was a professor at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service since 2014. He was appointed Director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy in 2016 after serving 2 years as a Senior Fellow in the Institute. In 2017 he was named a Texas A&M University Presidential Impact Fellow and in 2018 he was named the Bob Bullock chair in Government and Public Policy.

Before joining the Bush School, Dr. Portney spent more than 30 years on the faculty of Tufts University, where he served as department chair in Political Science and directed the graduate program in Public Policy and Citizen Participation. He received the accolade of Professor Emeritus there.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Marilyn Santiesteban, his son Teddy and wife Jennie, his daughter Alexandra, his sister Arden and her husband Vince, and 3 loving cats.

Dr. Kent Portney – Celebration of Life

Please join us at 2pm to honor and celebrate the life of Professor Kent Portney. Please leave messages for the family in the comments.

Posted by Callaway-Jones Funeral Home and Crematory on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Dr. Portney will be honored with a Celebration of Life at 2 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at Callaway-Jones Funeral Center in Bryan, with Celebrant Dawn Lee Wakefield officiating.

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Memories Timeline


  1. Kent was such a bright light at the Bush School. HIs positive and caring spirit infected us all for the good. He will be sorely missed.

  2. The light that shone within Kent was a beaming glow of love for all he encountered. I worked with him when he was at Tufts University and was a co-PI for an NSF IGERT grant – focused on Water Diplomacy. His kindness, intellectual wisdom and commitment to collaborate across disciplines will serve as a lasting legacy and model for how we work together. A remarkable leader and my heart goes out to his family and friends!

  3. Kent Portney contributed in so many ways to the quality of the Bush School community. He addressed vital questions affecting the quality of life and public policy through his research. His quiet but caring and thoughtful way with all of us made him an valuable colleague and friend.

  4. I just met Ken a couple of years ago. I feel lucky our lives crossed paths even if only for such a brief time. I always looked forward to seeing him at our regular meetings. His excitement for life and for our research questions was contagious. I will miss seeing him regularly and learning from him yet I find comfort in the impression he left on me and in the feeling that his memory will be with me for ever.

  5. Kent was a friend, a collaborator, and a teacher. I learned so much from him. We worked together at Tufts and kept in touch when I visited College Station. He showed me the best BBQ place and talked about music and his research. His dedication to students, collaborators, and making the world a better cleaner place was true and inspiring. I will miss him and my heart goes out to his family!

  6. Kent, you are gone from us, but will always be a part of us. Thank you for your friendship, scholarship, and leadership. My love to your family.

  7. I was very blessed to cross paths with Kent. His generosity, curiosity, entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication to tackling practical problems enriched the Bush School and inspired me to stretch my own boundaries. I will always be grateful to Kent for his thoughtful mentoring. My thoughts are with his family.

  8. My heart goes out to Marilyn, Lexi, Teddy, and Family. Kent was a great scholar, amazing leader, and a kind and loving man. He will be sorely missed. It is a great loss to our community. Sending love and hugs.

  9. Kyndra and I are deeply saddened to hear of Kent’s passing. We recall fondly the opportunities we have had to break bread with Marilyn and Kent while sharing great conversation. Our hearts and our prayers go to Marilyn, Alexandra, and their family who are all searching for a way to digest this. It is our sincere hope that the love, warm thoughts, and memories shared by so many will provide some consolation to you in this difficult time.

  10. I met Dr. Portney a couple of years ago when he so graciously accepted to be on my committee and guide me through to receiving my degree. His knowledge and passion was inspiring. He will be missed. Keeping you in my prayers.

  11. I was so fortunate to have known Kent and enjoy his always great company. I think he was the single most industrious human being I ever met, and I will miss him as will we all

  12. Kent was such a gentleman in every interaction I had with him. He was generous with advice and always in good humor. We at the Bush School will greatly miss him.

  13. What a tremendous loss! He was the ultimate gentleman and scholar; always very kind, gracious, and willing to share his knowledge and wisdom. My most heartfelt condolences!

  14. I express my deep condolences to Dr Portney’s family and friends. I and my wife Gunay very briefly had a chance to talk to Dr Portney at one of the receptions organized by the Bush School. We will be keeping you in our prayers.

  15. I am so sorry to hear of Kent’s death. Marilyn, Teddy and Lexi, you are in our prayers and thoughts. All those Christmas Eves at the house on Oak Cliff Road, with Kent and Marilyn presiding, are warm and strong in our memories. Please accept deep condolences from me, Joan, Sarah and Julia

  16. Kent was a lovely colleague; I’ll miss both his hellos and the I’ll get back to you later comments. His sweet smile will be sorely missed around here. Marilyn and family, you are in my thoughts and prayers; be strong.

  17. Kent was always such a kind and decent man with everyone whom he met – a true gentleman. It was always an uplifting part of the day to see Kent and Marilyn holding hands as they arrived together in the morning and when they left in evening. My condolences to you and your family, Marilyn.

  18. Sir, I did not think that I will not be able to meet you ever again.
    I know we had not met many times, but your suggestion will always
    with me. Rest in peace, sir. You will always be in my prayer

  19. A trip to the Portney / Santiesteban residence meant that you were likely to witness Kent in one of his many natural habitats. In front of the TV watching sports, up on a ladder building or re-building something, or in the living room re-telling childhood stories as only he could and having us in stitches, where on the other side of the room a bookcase held a sampling of his many research accomplishments.

    I’m not sure how you fit all of that, and more, into one person. But I can tell you that the mortar that held it together was a kind and thoughtful soul. I am fortunate to have known Kent for over 30 years.

  20. Although I only had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Portney once, I will always remember how he made me feel welcome at the Bush School as I was just beginning my time there. Sending thoughts, prayers, and my deepest condolences to Ms. Santiesteban and the rest of Dr. Portney’s family.

  21. Thanks for the example you leave behind Kent…all your friends and colleagues at the Bush School will miss you terribly. Rest in peace.

  22. Marilyn sending you and your family my heartfelt sympathy! My heart breaks for you . Always Andréa

  23. Kent had an amazing ability to bring people together and form meaningful and lasting partnerships. But most importantly he was a great colleague and a true friend.

  24. Dr. Kent Portney was a kindhearted man who has touched the lives of many students, myself included. Dr. Portney was always available to help people in any way he could, and he was so encouraging and supportive. I will never forget how he stopped everything he was working on to help me plan my future, and I am so grateful for his selfless guidance. I light a candle in his honor, and offer my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones.

  25. Kent was a good person and an excellent colleague. Kent’s loss will be deeply felt on so many different levels. He truly worked to make the world a better place through his research, his support and mentorship, his sense of humor and so much more. The world is better off for his having been in it.

  26. Marilyn, I send you and your family my deepest condolences. Although I did not have the privilege of studying under the tutelage of your husband, whenever we interacted he was always pleasant, kind, and humble. May his memory be a blessing.

  27. Dr. Portney inspired me through his passion for research and his kindness and patience with those learning from him. I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to take multiple policy classes of his at The Bush School and was able to work for him at ISTPP. He was a wonderful mentor and I will carry his lessons with me forever.

  28. Kent was my friend, and I miss his presence. He was just the type of mentor I needed when I found him. Brilliant, irreverent, funny, caring, kind, and wise. I went to Kent for professional, moral, and just friendly advice. We hoped, fought, taught, and learned together. His strong voice, sharp wit, and keen sense of justice were just what this world needed, and continues to need more of. Losing you is a devastating loss, my friend. We’ll carry on in your absence, my dear friend. Much love. Rest peacefully. Thank you. For everything.

  29. It has been a joy to get to know and work with Kent through ISTPP. I have a great deal of respect for his work — and for his demeanor in working with research teams. His loss will be felt at ISTPP and the Bush School, generally, for some time.

  30. Kent was a terrific scholar and teacher, outstanding leader, and warm and welcoming spirit. In all these dimensions and many more, he was a great role model for us all. We shall miss him greatly. Marylyn, please accept deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers from Mary and me.

  31. Ms. Santiesteban, I send you and your family my deepest condolences. Losing the one you love is so hard. Keeping you in my prayers.

  32. Kent and I arrived at Texas A&M in 2014. Our paths crossed almost immediately, and I have been blessed to count him as a colleague and friend. He has been incredibly supportive, generous with his time, and gracious in his friendship. In all his interactions, he was thoughtful and engaging. He will be deeply missed for what he has meant to so many of us, but also for a future that will be less enriching without his presence.

  33. Querida,
    We are truly sorry for your loss and are sending loving thoughts to you, Teddy and Lexi during these unimaginably difficult times.

    All our love,
    Melissa, Walter & Theo

  34. I’m not sure there is anyone at the Bush School more kind and generous than Kent. He would always greet people with a genuine smile and you could tell how much he loved what he did. Even more, you could see the love he had for Marilyn. I hope that you can feel the love of your Bush School family during this terrible time. We are all thinking of you, Teddy, Lexi and your extended families.

  35. To Kent’s family, I knew him as a generous colleague at Tufts, where he was an outstanding teacher and scholar. Please accept my condolences for your loss.

  36. I want to pass on my deepest condolences. I first came to know Kent from our time together on TAMU’s Council of Principal Investigators. He was also kind enough to lend his expertise on sustainable communities and science policy to a number of our developing projects, and he inspired the interests of several of my students in public policy. He will be greatly missed. I am so sorry for your loss.

  37. I want to pass on my deepest condolences. I first came to know Kent from our time together on TAMU’s Council of Principal Investigators. He was also kind enough to lend his expertise on sustainable communities and science policy to a number of our projects, and he inspired the interests of several of my students in science and public policy. He will be greatly missed. I am so sorry for your loss.

  38. Kent was a mentor, friend, and colleague, who will continue to be a guiding light in all of our lives. To Marilyn and the family please know that Sharon and I hurt, emotionally and physically, for your loss and yet we smile because of his kindness, sage words, and supportive nature. He is forever remembered as our Jolly Rancher!

  39. Kent was honestly the best colleague you could ask for. He offered me opportunities that, quite frankly, I didn’t deserve, and the thought of letting him down kept me up at night. But, he wouldn’t hear any of that. Like him, I was from Jersey, and that made me his guy. He just told me to do my best and that we would figure it out together. This is just such a tremendous loss. My heart goes out to Marilyn and his family.

  40. Kent was an excellent scholar. He always wanted to make the world a better place through his research. He was an inspiring colleague and amazing leader. Working with him was always a joy, and I learned a great deal from him. He was a true gentleman and a wonderful friend with a great sense of humor. Rest in peace, my friend. Sally and I will miss you terribly. Our thoughts are with Marilyn, Teddy, and Lexi.

  41. I will miss stopping by Dr. Portney’s office and running into him at school in the atrium to say hello and catch up. He had such a jovial personality that always uplifted my mood. I am sad that I was unable to take a class with this wonderful man and study more under his tutelage, but I am glad that I got the chance to know Dr. Portney even if it was for a little while. As my mentor and friend Dr. Portney is in my heart and I miss him, but I know that his legacy through his family, students, and accomplishments shall live on. My deepest condolences to Dr. Portney’s wife, Mrs. Santiesteban, children, family, and close friends. He truly impacted my life in a positive way, and I consider myself fortunate to have known him. ❤️

  42. Many people in Newton, Massachusetts felt an empty space in our consciousness when Kent and Marilyn, the most perfect host and hostess left for bigger and better opportunities in Texas. Kent knew more than “This Old House” especially when he figured out how to turn a bathroom mirror into a TV! I treasure so many memories of being part of your wonderful family gatherings. But Kent belonged to the world as a much bigger presence and leaves a huge gap. The deepest loss is felt by the amazing Marilyn, Alexa, and Teddy and my heart and virtual hugs go out to you. The only comfort can be that you had him for the time you did.

  43. Very sad to learn of the sudden passing of Dr. Kent Portney. During the short time that I knew him at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, at Texas A&M University, he always impressed me as a thoughtful scholar, caring teacher and warm friend. Our deepest condolences to Marilyn and family. Kent will be missed. May he rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon him.
    Joe and Linda Cerami

  44. This is definitely an irreplaceable loss to the Interdisciplinary Academic Council of Texas A&M Energy Institute. I served with Ken in two different committees in the last few years. He was such a prominent scholar but very humble. I remember serving with him on a review panel just a week ago. Kent will definitely be missed as a great colleague and an inspirational teacher.

  45. Kent,

    I already miss you. I’ve been your daughter’s best friend for about 15 years, and you’ve been a pillar in my own life. You and Marilyn always took me in when I needed it, made me feel valued and welcome, and spent time talking to me. That’s the kind of person you are; we’ll all remember you as gentle, erudite, and funny, a true family man. We all relied on you, and this loss is too great for words. Thank you for all the love and support you’ve given us. We can never repay it.

  46. Dr. Portney was a great mentor, scholar, and an amazing person. He always encouraged and inspired me. I learned so many things from him. I am going to miss him so much. Marilyn, you and your family are in my heart and mind.

  47. From the moment I met Kent, I was impressed by what an accomplished individual he was. He taught and lectured on a subject I couldn’t understand. He wrote nine books, tackling problems I wasn’t astute enough to be aware even existed.

    I loved our conversations, though I often found his intellect intimidating. In our exchanges, he greatly expanded my knowledge of whatever the subject of the moment – politics, the environment, economics, current events, the sciences, and of course the Holy Grail of male bonding, sports. He was one of a handful of individuals on this planet who understand the Infield Fly Rule.

    Owning a century-old house in Boston, he tackled every summer a major home improvement project. He added a bathroom and remodeled another, doing his own plumbing and tile work. He regraded the back yard, which consisted of a nearly vertical hill. He installed new windows. With skill and confidence, he took on challenges a licensed architect would shy away from.

    Though his accomplishments were many, I’ll remember him most for his warmth and kindness, for his giving nature and wry sense of humor.

    He imparted his wisdom to Teddy and Lexi, and his unfailing love to my sister, but so much more than that – Kent used his gifts to give to the world far more than he was given. The price we pay for having known Kent is the deep sense of emptiness and loss we’re now facing.

  48. Dr. Portney was such a kind person and special part of the Bush School. He was an absolute joy to work with and was deeply passionate about his work. He will be sorely missed. May he rest in eternal peace.

  49. The world has lost an amazing man. He represented the best in having a wonderful family and career. Kent celebrated his family and was always so supportive of his colleagues. He showed his love of family and promoted the research of those in his orbit. He truly cared about the world and will be so very missed. Sending all my love to Marilyn and the rest of the family.

  50. I am blessed and grateful to have had Kent as a friend. Kent supported me in my work through opportunities, encouragement, suggestions, challenges, and many other ways. More importantly, he supported me as a person, caring about me, my interests, my family, and my volunteer activities. His friendship and character helped me grow. And I know he was a friend to many. Kent was quick with a laugh and a joke, generous with his time, always up for intellectual discussions, and cared about improving our world and society. I will miss him. I am focusing on so many wonderful memories. Memories of friends are more than pictures in our minds. They fuse themselves into our hearts and remain a part of our lives, of who we are.

    As others have noted, Marilyn, Lexi, Teddy, Kent’s love for you came through clearly in how he spoke of you. And, as others have mentioned, I loved seeing Kent and Marilyn holding hands as they strolled through the parking lot. Made me happy to see you together. My condolences to you.

  51. I took Dr. Portney’s water policy class and strongly believe he was one of the best professors I have had in graduate school. His enthusiasm and desire to challenge his students was well-known and appreciated. I am so honored to have known him, even if it was only in a classroom-setting.

  52. We are so sorry for your loss Marilyn, Lexi, and Teddy. Kent was a wonderful colleague and person. I know he will be missed by all of us.

  53. Kent was always a joy to be around. Whether we were talking research or just talking he always smiled and always treated everyone with respect. Great man.

  54. Dr. Portney was one of the kindest people I knew. He invited me into his home and his family barely knowing me, and the summer I got to spend with him was a blessing. His loss cuts deep. My love, deepest condolences, and prayers go out to his beautiful family.

  55. Kent was a great colleague, friend, and mentor. His memory and inspiration will endure at the Bush School and among his many friends and family members.

  56. Our condolences for the whole family. May he be in The Glory of our Lord!

  57. To Kent’s family. He was a wonderful colleague to his many friends at Tufts. He had a generous spirit, a great sense of humor, and a warm demeanor. Upon his leaving Tufts he was quite missed. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  58. Kent, you’ll be missed my friend. Thank you for being the person you were while on this earth. Peace and Love.

  59. Kent was an excellent scholar, a supportive mentor, and a kind person with a perfect sense of humor. I will miss his passion for impactful research, his pleasant presence at faculty gatherings, and conversations about cars. It’s such a tremendous loss for the Bush School but his legacy will live on. My heart goes to Marilyn and the family.

  60. Kent was an excellent scholar, a supportive mentor, and a kind person with a perfect sense of humor. I will greatly miss his passion for impact research, his pleasant presence at social gatherings, and conversations about cars. It’s a tremendous loss for the Bush School, but his legacy will live on. My thoughts are with Marilyn and the family.

  61. We will all miss Kent at the Bush School; his warmth, humor, intellect, and commitment to his students. Peace be with you my friend. Elizabeth and I send our sympathies to Marilyn, Ted and Lexi.

  62. Kent was a wonderful, trusted colleague and a kind and generous person and we will miss him greatly. I’m so glad that we were able to cross paths. My condolences.

  63. Dr. Portney was a good man who was truly passionate about the world, his students, and his studies. He opened my eyes to the many ways of making our world a better place through sustainable policies. I am honored to have learned from him and he will certainly be missed at the Bush School. God bless Dr. Portney, Mrs. Santiesteban and the whole family.

  64. Marilyn – we are so sorry for your loss. I will miss seeing Kent “loitering” outside your office at the end of the day while you finished a student meeting. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  65. Dear Marilyn,
    I’m so sorry. What a huge loss. I will always remember the nice visits with you and Kent and the kids. You worked very hard as wife, mother, professional and stood up and strong and with love for Kent. I know he admired you, loved and enjoyed you for all that. What a blessing you’ve had, and the memory will endure for you. Heartfelt condolences to you, Teddy and Alexandra.
    With love,

  66. Dr. Portney was the best kind of educator. He advocated for me, challenged me, and perhaps most importantly, taught me how to look at the world through a critical lens. He was one of the smartest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, he was also one of the kindest. I owe some of my best days in graduate school to his mentoring. My best wishes are with Marilyn & his kids & his cats.

  67. Dr. Portney was a shining example of the impact an excellent educator can have He advocated for me, challenged me, and taught me how to view the world through a critical lens. Some of my favorite days at the Bush School were spent in his courses and his mentorship set me on the path I’m on today. While being one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, he was one of the kindest and most thoughtful, having a sense of humanity that I strive for in my own life. My best wishes are with Marilyn, his kids, and his cats.

  68. I am so sorry for your loss. Dr.Portney always had a smile on his face And was so kind to everyone he met. My prayers go out to you and your family, Ms.Santiesteban.

  69. Dr. Portney was, and will always be remembered as, a kind and gentle soul. He will greatly be missed, more than any words can express. Marilyn & Family, my thoughts and prayers are with you all during this time.

  70. Dear Marilyn,
    I want to send my deep condolences for the passing of Kent. I think of all of you fondly from your days at Trinity Church, and am praying for you in this difficult time.

  71. Dear Marilyn, Alexa and Teddy,
    I am so sorry to hear of Kent’s death. Please accept my prayers and condolences. May the peace of Christ and God’s ever-sustaining love be with you now. With fond memories of our time together at Trinity,

  72. I just heard about Kent’s passing and it saddened me greatly. Prof Portney was my advisor at Tufts and I did research with him for two summers. He not only helped guide me through my college academic experience but into the start of my career. I loved the work we did together and it meant a lot to me that we got to work so closely together. I always appreciated his myriad stories and his ability to find humor in the world. Please send my condolences to his family and let them know he will be remembered fondly.

  73. I just heard this heart-breaking information in China. I was Kent’s first research assistant at Bush School. He was so knowledgeable but humble and always a role model for me. Very appreciate for his kind help, I will always remember him.

  74. I was a student of Kent’s his first semester at A&M. Although I was an engineering graduate student, I was taking environmental courses so I could work in public policy rather than practice engineering. His class was one of the most memorable, challenging, and rewarding classes. With the Supreme Court’s decision today, I wanted to find his response – was so very saddened to learn of his passing. I often speak of him to my friends and colleagues. He will be fondly remembered and though 2 years have passed, I will keep his family in my prayers.

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