John Rensenbrink, one of the most prominent figures in national third-party politics after co-founding the U.S. and Maine Green political parties, died on Saturday at the age of 93, according to Global Greens.
Rensenbrink grew up in Minnesota, one of seven children born to Dutch-American farmers, Effie and John. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Calvin College in Michigan, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, respectively.
He became a professor of government and environmental studies at Bowdoin College in 1961, where he taught for more than 30 years, according to Bowdoin.
In 1984, he became a principal founder of the Green Party, nationally and in Maine. He co-convened a meeting in Augusta on Jan. 8 of that year to form a Maine Green Party — the first Green state-level political party in the United States, according to Global Greens.
“That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to accomplish — to create a new political party,” Rensenbrink told Bowdoin in a 2018 interview. “For me, the Green Party and its Ten Key Values offer the possibility of creating a new economy rooted in the land and a grassroots, ecologically tuned political culture. For years, achieving this vision became my passion.”
Rensenbrink was the party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1996.
The Green Independent Party won official ballot status in 1998, when gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche received 6.8 percent of the vote. A party’s candidate for governor or president needed to garner at least 5 percent of all votes in a general election to get official recognition.
He and his wife, Carla, raised three daughters and spearheaded the Cathance River Education Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the goal of inspiring a sustainable future.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Rensenbrink’s last name.