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Remembering Sid Lerner: Dear colleague and friend whose contributions shaped CLF’s beginnings and inform our work to come

Jan 20, 2021

Sid Lerner

Sid Lerner, the former advertising executive who founded the Meatless Monday campaign, passed away on January 12, 2021, at the age of 90 at his home in New York.

Recognized as a unique and brilliant mind with a great sense of humor, he was also a true public health advocate who challenged conventional thinking and inspired many to address urgent public health problems through novel health communications strategies and evidence-based science. While he will be greatly missed at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), his influence remains.

“Sid became a vital part of the Center early on, joining the advisory board for our ‘Factory Farm Project,’ and drawing our attention to the importance of the demand side in the high-meat American diet,” said Robert S. Lawrence, MD, the Center’s founder and director emeritus. “When Sid came up with the health promotion idea for the Meatless Monday campaign, his energetic advocacy persuaded me and former Bloomberg School Dean Al Sommer to collaborate.” Since its inception, CLF has provided the campaign with technical assistance and service as a science adviser. Over time, Meatless Monday has evolved into a global movement that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for their health and the health of the planet.

“Sid pushed people to move from words to action,” said Dean Al Sommer, MD. “Sid likes new ideas, but unlike most of us, he’ll do something about his ideas.” 

Sid deserves a great deal of credit in helping inspire the Center in our commitment to aim high and address big problems and to translate knowledge into action. His approach and ideas helped embed within CLF a commitment to public health advocacy and to seek solutions through our research, education, communications, and policy and practice portfolios. His passion for helping people reduce meat consumption was a great complement to CLF’s focus on transforming food animal production and greater food system change.

In 2005, Sid reluctantly agreed to join CLF faculty in a Center for Teaching and Learning recording studio to share his unique perspectives in a lecture entitled, “Advocacy for Better Health and a Smaller Footprint: the Meatless Monday Campaign.” Sid’s wit and unique perspectives struck a chord with the ambitious Hopkins students determined to make a difference in the world, and his lecture continues to be rated one of their favorites.  The lecture is also available on Coursera and has been viewed by thousands of students.

“I have enjoyed tremendously all the inspirational conversations I had with Sid, and I will miss him dearly,” said Martin Bloem, MD, PhD, director of the Center.

In 2019, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels presented Sid Lerner with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Sid will be sorely missed by everyone at CLF for his wry sense of humor, creative genius, and his unwavering dedication to making the world a healthier place.

Learn more about Sid’s life and his relationship with the Bloomberg School.