David W. Orr was born in Des Moines, Iowa and was raised in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. from Westminster College (1965), a M.A. from Michigan State University (1966), and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania (1973). He and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren. David Orr is currently Professor and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College.
He is perhaps best known for his pioneering work on environmental literacy in higher education and his recent work in ecological design. He raised funds for and spearheaded the effort to design and build a $7.2 million Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College, a building described by the New York Times as "the most remarkable" of a new generation of college buildings and selected as one of 30 "milestone buildings" in the 20th century by the U.S. Department of Energy.
He was awarded a Bioneers Award in 2002, a National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation in 1993, a Lyndhurst Prize in 1992 awarded by the Lyndhurst Foundation "to recognize the educational, cultural, and charitable activities of particular individuals of exceptional talent, character, and moral vision," the Benton Box Award from Clemson University for his work in Environmental Education (1995). He holds three Honorary Doctorates and has been a distinguished scholar in residence at Ball State University (1995) and Westminster College in Salt Lake City (1996). In a special citation, the Connecticut General Assembly noted Orr's "vision, dedication, and personal passion" in promoting the principles of sustainability. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described him as "one of those who will shape our lives."
David Orr is the author of four books: The Last Refuge: The Corruption of Patriotism in the Age of Terror (Island Press, 2004); The Nature of Design (Oxford, 2002); Earth in Mind (Island, 1994); Ecological Literacy (SUNY, 1992) and co-editor of The Global Predicament (North Carolina, 1979) and The Campus and Environmental Responsibility (Jossey-Bass, 1992). He has published 120 articles in scientific journals, social science publications, and popular magazines.
Dr. Orr is contributing editor of Conservation Biology. He is a Trustee of the Educational Foundation of America and the Compton Foundation. He serves on the Boards of the Rocky Mountain Institute (CO), Second Nature (MA), the Center for Ecoliteracy (CA), and the Center for Respect of Life and Environment. He is also an advisor and consultant to the Trust for Public Land, the National Parks Advisory Committee, and other organizations. He is a frequent lecturer at Schumacher College (UK) and has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S.