University trustee Sigo Falk chairs the foundation, which was established by his family in 1929, and notified its president that the charity was disbanding and giving the bulk of its money to the school. It’s the largest gift in Chatham’s 144-year history.
The money will be used to further develop the school’s Eden Hall Campus, which is on a former 388-acre farm in Richland Township that was given to the school by the Eden Hall Foundation in 2008.
The money will expand an institute named for environmentalist Rachel Carson and help support the university’s School of Sustainability & the Environment at the new campus northeast of the city.
When completed, the school hopes the campus will produce zero net carbon emissions. The school plans to use solar and geothermal energy, and natural gas fuel cell technology to power, heat and cool buildings on the new campus.
“Colleges and universities are in the vanguard in taking climate change seriously, but few have the opportunity that we have,” foundation President Esther Barazzone said. “When I talk to people, they are stunned at the scope of this challenge and our willingness to take it on.”
The private liberal arts school has 2,200 students, but the Eden Hall campus will allow the school to add 1,500 more.
An undergraduate sustainability program will be added offered to students beginning next year, and the university’s sustainability school will be renamed the Falk School of Sustainability.
The school has already raised $40 million, including the Falk gift, that was needed for the first two phases of the new campus. A third phase, set to begin in spring 2016, will require raising another $50 million. It will include a classroom building known as the EcoCenter, which will also have a theater and events space.