Alumni Earmark Support for Sustainable Campuses

NWF   |   January 9, 2006
By earmarking gifts for sustainability, alumni can greatly boost the environmental performance, research and teaching at their alma maters, generating many ancillary benefits for their schools and the wider society. Such is the case at the University of Michigan where the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute is being launched with a $5.25 million gift from the Graham Foundation, a philanthropic organization established by Donald Graham and his wife Ingrid. The Office of the Provost will provide an additional $5.25 million to match the gift.

Oftentimes, large alumni gifts pay for high profile new buildings that require considerable natural resources to build and, more often than not, are not energy efficient or otherwise green. The opposite is the case with the Graham gift which will leverage the University’s existing sustainability efforts involving more than 300 faculty members in seven schools, with extensive efforts in the College of Engineering, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the School of Public Health, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and others.

The Institute will focus on five areas: energy; freshwater systems: human health and its link to the changing environment; global change and biodiversity; and infrastructure and manufacturing systems. As the term implies, sustainability refers to approaches that attempt to meet the needs of the present without compromising the environment for future generations.

According to a U-M press release, Graham earned a bachelor’s degree at U-M in industrial engineering in 1955 and a master’s in mechanical engineering in 1956. He put theory into practice in his early manufacturing experience in the recycling of plastics, where his methods reduced landfill needs while saving on raw materials. He founded Graham Engineering Co. in 1960 in his basement, and today the Graham Group’s holdings include industrial businesses operating out of roughly 60 locations worldwide.