Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute
launched by University
A $10.5 million sustainability initiative has been created by the University to advance its position as a global academic leader in a critical area of research and teaching.
The Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute is being launched with a $5.25 million expendable 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 augment the University's extensive ongoing work in the field and bring the effort to a new level.
U-M is home to top-ranked schools in virtually all of the critical disciplines pertinent to environmental sustainability. The institute will leverage existing leadership by creating a cohesive, well-coordinated effort to encourage additional synergies and support new, high-impact programs. Current activity involves more than 300 U-M faculty members, spread across seven schools, with extensive efforts in the College of Engineering, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE), the School of Public Health, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and LSA. Also involved are the A. Alfred Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Research and teaching on sustainability span such disciplines as business, engineering, science, social science and health, and collaborations occur in more than 25 centers and initiatives. Together these activities account for about $30 million annually in sponsored research on sustainability.
The institute will focus on five crucial areas of sustainability: energy; freshwater systems: human health and its link to the changing environment; global change and biodiversity; and infrastructure and manufacturing systems. Sustainability refers to approaches that attempt to meet the needs of the present without compromising the environment for future generations.
About half the funding will go toward faculty research support for preparation of major collaborative grant applications in the five key topic areas. The funds also will be used to encourage both undergraduate and graduate studies in sustainability with new fellowships and internships, and to create integrated graduate degree programs and courses among the schools and colleges now engaged in sustainability studies. A national search will be conducted to recruit a director for the institute.
Graham, of York, Penn., traces his involvement in sustainability to his father, Sam Graham, who was a professor in the former School of Forestry at U-M, the predecessor of SNRE. The senior Graham was a pioneer in what is now called environmental sustainability.
In the 1940s and 1950s, before many of the issues were generally recognized, he published articles on, among other topics, the environmental consequences of overuse of DDT, and the threat of long-term water table problems. His son's commitment to the environment was reinforced as an engineering student when he realized that his elective studies in the business school provided him with the skills to develop sustainable enterprises.
Graham earned a bachelor's degree 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, and significant private equity and marketable security investments. He serves as the chair of the board of trustees of the Mpala Foundation in Kenya, which addresses ranch and wildlife conservancy, among other issues. He has also been active in the Recycling Advisory Council.
"The University of Michigan is unique, with top ranked schools in the critical disciplines needed to realize progress in environmental sustainability," Graham said. "The ESI is designed to leverage that strength through coordination and support for sustainability research and education. I am happy to support the University that provided me with the tools to achieve a successful sustainable enterprise."
President Mary Sue Coleman noted that the formation of the institute carries out the recommendation of a study initiated and funded by Graham and executed by former Provost Paul Courant in 2004. The study stated that U-M possessed substantial expertise that could be leveraged to increase the impact of its multidisciplinary education and research into sustainability.
"I am delighted to be announcing the launch of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute that will enable us to maximize the effect of the outstanding work being carried out by faculty today, toward our ultimate goal of greater leadership in the field," Coleman said. "We are confronted by issues that are critical to the survival of our planet, and it is imperative that we bring our collective efforts to bear on finding solutions."
Coleman noted that the gift complemented the support given to sustainability studies by Barbara and Frederick Erb, whose gifts created the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and by the Wege Foundation, which has supported the Center for Sustainable Systems in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the annual Peter M. Wege Lecture.
"Perhaps the most important challenge facing our society today is to sustain our natural resources and environment," said Edward Gramlich, interim provost. "The problems of environmental sustainability are complex and multi-faceted and often can be solved only through the combined efforts of experts in many fields."Graham's latest support is part of a nearly $12 million gift to The Michigan Difference, the University's $2.5 billion fundraising campaign, of which he and Ingrid are honorary co-chairs. He is a member of the President's Advisory Group and of the College of Engineering National Advisory Committee. He serves on the College of Engineering's anniversary campaign committee.
The Institute plans to be fully operational by late 2006.