The following was provided by Anna Quandt, Lenni’s loving spouse and UAA alumna:
Lenni William Kangas, 78, died of cancer on Thursday, April 7, 2011, at his home in Iowa City, Iowa, surrounded by his wife and children.
Lenni began his life in a small Finnish community in northern Minnesota, the only child of Katharyn and Waino William Kangas. He grew up in Superior, Wisconsin, learning English in kindergarten and excelling in school. He earned a degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin, built a raft and floated down the Mississippi Huck Finn style, and organized a nearly successful petition drive to recall Senator Joe McCarthy. When elected President of the class of 1955, the campus newspaper proclaimed,“Superior Man Wins.” As an active alumnus he organized and funded an award for excellence in teaching for outstanding UW professors.
After graduation he served in the Navy for three years aboard the USS Yorktown in the Pacific, and later earned a Master’s degree in Public Health at the University of North Carolina. He became Assistant Dean of Men at the University of California, Berkeley, and witnessed hydrogen bombs on Bikini atolls while working for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.
In 1963 he joined the Ford Foundation and began a long and passionate career devoted to solving the world’s population problems. He joined the US Agency for International Development in 1969 as the first Deputy Director of its newly formed Office of Population. Through his work in Egypt, India, and the Philippines, Lenni was part of the pioneering group of “Poppers” who collaborated with governments of developing countries and non-governmental organizations to establish the first international family planning programs. His innovative approaches included month-long vasectomy camps in India and visits to remote villages in Luzon and Mindanao.
During a second posting to Egypt, Lenni laughed off the local newspaper article branding him “The American in Your Bedrooms,” and oversaw a significant increase in the use of Egyptian family planning services.
After retiring from the Senior Foreign Service in 1986, Lenni continued to work on population and HIV-AIDS prevention from the Agency’s Africa Bureau. He never fully retired, continuing his consulting activities until last year, always returning from Africa with wonderful stories and photographs. Lenni was generous, gregarious, and always optimistic. He was responsible for attracting many professionals to the field of population and supporting them in their careers. He was the author of numerous articles and papers on population and health.
While still in California, Lenni married Georgia Lee Clare and in 1963 moved his young family, including daughters Tanya and Sara, to Egypt. Lenni used his overseas postings to pursue his many interests, including scuba diving and archaeological pursuits. He loved sailing on the Nile and once raced a 36′ yacht from Manila to Hong Kong.
After Georgia Lee’s death in 1983, Lenni met Anna Spitzer Quandt. They were married in 1989 and bought a home in Washington, DC. Lenni and Anna adopted Peter John Kangas as an infant in 1991 in Romania. The family moved to Iowa in 2002. They owned and operated the “Revolt “ indoor skateboard park in Iowa City for two years.
Lenni enjoyed telling stories, discussing politics, watching TV news, playing tennis, listening to NPR, fishing at Lake Vermillion, walking his dog Molly, drinking red wine, and watching the eagles soar over the Iowa River.
Most of all, Lenni loved people. His work was his way of helping people and serving the greater good. It also allowed him to become a dashing world traveler while maintaining Midwestern values, to meet people from all walks of life, and to become friends with most of them. The little Finnish boy from northern Minnesota became a world citizen who lived by his own motto: “Bound forward, grab the world, and give it a little shake!”
He is survived by his wife, Anna Quandt; his daughters Tanya Paloma Reams (Gary) and Sara Kangas (Peter Mark); his son Peter Kangas; cousins, John Kangas and Paula Wood; and many other loving relatives and friends.
Contributions may be made to National Public Radio.