Killian Bryan O. Doherty

He fought for the environment, loved soccer and wrote for Eugene Weekly

By the family of Killian Doherty

Killian Doherty passed away surrounded by family at a place he especially loved, his family cabin at Lake Crescent. He battled a rare and aggressive cancer for 15 months. He was 37.

Born in Port Angeles, Washington, Killian’s discovery of the world he came to cherish was through soccer. His love for the game began with youth soccer and developed with select soccer. He played with the Image Soccer Team in Europe and China, which captivated his interest in world cultures and languages. While he had a gift for learning multiple languages, soccer was his international language. He played recreational soccer on four continents. He frequently wrote sports columns for Eugene Weekly about his worldwide soccer exploits and soccer as psychotherapy.

While still in high school, he took the initiative to study the Irish Gaelic language through the University of Ireland in Galway. Then, rather than taking a more traditional path to college, he spent the year following his high school graduation studying in Spain, France and Italy. He became proficient in the languages of all three countries. 

He returned to the U.S. to complete his BA in linguistics at Western Washington University, followed by a graduate degree in Argentina through Georgetown University and the Universidad Nacionale de General San Martin. He lived, traveled, volunteered and played soccer for five years in South America before returning to the Pacific Northwest by crisscrossing Latin America by land, making new friends and immersing himself in the cultures he encountered. 

He subsequently completed his law degree at the University of Oregon. His passion for environmental justice and his volunteer experiences in Buenos Aires led him to work for Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), an international non-profit organization. 

Killian volunteered to translate for ELAW partners in his first year of law school. As the program director later commented, “He impressed us all immediately, not just by his incredible language skills, but his passion for supporting partners working with local communities around the world and his willingness to be working with us while classmates were stressing over first-year law classes.” His contributions led to the creation of ELAW’s first and only advanced externship. 

His fluency in Brazilian Portuguese, as well as Spanish, enabled him to work with indigenous lawyers, draft legal briefs in the native language and file them directly in Latin American courts. Killian’s expertise in areas of Latin American jurisprudence and environmental law became well known. He spoke at public climate litigation conferences in Brazil and Chile, setting the stage for discussions between government and civil society representatives on how legal instruments can be used to protect the climate. 

Killian was a friend to all. He had friendships around the world. His ability to communicate across cultures, unwavering commitment to environmental justice, passion for life and agility on the soccer pitch touched many. While soccer was Killian’s window on the world, law was his way of protecting it. 

He is the son of Mike and Paula Doherty, brother to Eóin and Conn Doherty.

To honor Killian’s remarkable contributions to the global body of environmental and indigenous law, Killian’s family, colleagues and friends are creating a memorial fund for law students and new lawyers to work with ELAW. Law fellows will collaborate with the ELAW team to protect communities and ecosystems around the world. You can honor Killian’s legacy by making memorial contributions to the Killian Doherty Legacy Fund A celebration of life will be planned for a later date. Killian’s soccer writings are at

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