Nicholas ‘Nick’ DiPasquale, a champion of environmental advocacy, dies

In 2017, Nicholas A. “Nick” DiPasquale was named “Admiral of the Chesapeake,” the highest honor the Maryland governor can bestow on an individual for their environmental contributions.

Nicholas A. “Nick” DiPasquale, an ardent environmentalist and former director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, died Nov. 24 after a long battle with lung cancer, surrounded by family at his home in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore. He was 71.

Mr. DiPasquale was known for his experience in conservation and spent more than three decades working on environmental protection with state agencies, nonprofits and in the private sector as a consultant.


“The Chesapeake community has lost an incredible voice and advocate,” said Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “As we look to the future of Bay restoration efforts, we owe a debt of gratitude to the foundation Nick has laid, and are well-served to follow in his footsteps as we work to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.”

Born Nov. 7, 1951, in Rochester, New York, he found his life’s calling as a teenager after reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which documents the environmental harm of indiscriminate use of pesticides.


Mr. DiPasquale was director of the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office from 2011 until retirement in 2017, when he was diagnosed with cancer, his wife Becky Robson said Friday.

In December 2017, he was also named “Admiral of the Chesapeake,” which is the highest honor the governor of Maryland can bestow on an individual for their environmental contributions, according to his obituary.

Mr. DiPasquale steered the passage and implementation of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. It’s one of the most successful cross-state and federal regulatory agreements in environmental protection history.

The agreement guides the work of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which is an organization that advocates for clean rivers and streams in the Chesapeake region.

“Nick’s unwavering ethics, boundless energy, and dedication to the environmental field left a mark not only on legislation, but on the next generation of environmentalists,” his obituary says. “His former colleagues often remark on his wonderful mentorship, on his patience, and his willingness to discuss their work and engage with people.”

He loved helping, mentoring and connecting people. He also liked getting people interested in environmental advocacy Mrs. Robson said.

Mr. DiPasquale served as a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine reactor operator in the North Atlantic from 1970 to 1976 before deciding that wasn’t for him and went back to school, Mrs. Robson said. He was a petty officer second class.

He obtained his bachelor’s degree in public administration from State University of New York System at Brockport and his master’s degree in energy and environmental policy from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.


Mr. DiPasquale met his first wife, Jackie, in Missouri. The couple had a daughter together and were married for more than two decades, said Mrs. Robson. His decades of experience in environmental management and regulation spans Missouri, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

His myriad career highlights include deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; and director of Waste Management Programs for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“He’s done an amazing job setting the groundwork that needed to be done, and he’s passed the torch to younger people,” his wife said. “He always said that it’s time for the old guys to step aside and get new blood in there and bring those ideas. I think he was very happy with that.”

Mr. DiPasquale was unapologetically liberal and outspoken when it came to advocating for what he saw as right, his obituary said. He would engage his brothers, Al and Jim, in spirited political debates until their sister, MaryEllen, would interject lightheartedly — “How ‘bout them Bills?” — to break the mood.

He was modest, never boasted and had a dark sense of humor, his wife said.

“At one point, he was on oxygen and the machine malfunctioned. The technician came in to repair it, and he was shaking like he couldn’t breathe while the guy was here,” Mrs. Robson said with a laugh.


Mr. DiPasquale loved the Chesapeake Bay and playing with his two huskies, Mocha and Mac, which he delighted in encouraging their howls with his signature Tarzan call, his obituary says. He also relished becoming a grandpa, and loved making silly faces with his two grandkids.

He and Mrs. Robson, 66, settled in Chestertown and were married for five years. The couple could be found kayaking the tributaries of the Chesapeake, traveling the globe or enjoying a glass of red wine on their front porch.

“We met late in life,” she said. “So we didn’t have a lot of time together. But the time we did have we spent traveling and enjoying each other’s company. He loved to kayak. So you can see us most days, any summer kayaking the streams of the Chesapeake area.”

He is preceded in death by his parents, Alex and Harriet, and his brother Al, all of Rochester, New York. His father was an electrician and his mother a homemaker. His mother died of cancer when Mr. DiPasquale was in his 20s, and his father died in 2015 of old age. His brother also died in 2015 of kidney failure.

He is survived by his wife, Becky Robson; a daughter, Laura, of Philadelphia; a sister, MaryEllen, of Buffalo, New York; a brother, Jim, a retired police officer, of Rochester, New York; stepdaughter Jess Nicholls; and grandkids as well as many nieces, nephews and in-laws.

Mr. DiPasquale had a natural burial under a magnolia tree in a field of wildflowers at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Easton, Talbot County. It was a private service.