Anthony Cortese (b. January 26, 1947 in Winthrop, Massachusetts) was raised in the north end of Boston and received his high school education at Boston Latin High School before entering Tufts University in 1964. Following his graduation he was employed by the United States Public Health Service. He received a Masters degree from Tufts University in 1972. He graduated with a doctoral degree in Environmental Health Sciences from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1976.
He was appointed director of the Air Quality Program for the Department of Environmental Protection from 1976-1978. He became Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1979 and continued in that position until 1984, through the terms of Governors Michael Dukakis and Edward J. King. The 1970s were a time of awakening for environmental protection and during his tenure the first "acid rain" regulations were developed, serving as a model for New England and eastern Canada.
In 1984 he became the Director of the Center for Environmental Management at Tufts University, and in 1989 he was named the dean of a newly created Environmental Program at the same University. During his tenure this program established the first program in environmental literacy , a partnership between the university and industry. The most novel feature of this program was the incorporation of environmental literacy into the curricula of a broad spectrum of academic programs. Tufts University received the first and only Presidential Citation for development of this program in 1990.
In 1993 Dr. Cortese , Senator John Kerry, and Teresa Heinz established Second Nature Education for Sustainability , a non-profit organization focused on making environmental sustainability a foundation of all learning and practice, i.e. teaching a balance between production and consumption in a way that preserves the delicate balance of nature. This organization has become an advocate for teaching sustainability at all institutions of higher learning through its incorporation into the curriculum.