At a Glance
Sustainability at Willamette
At Willamette, sustainability is indelibly part of the fabric of the university. Willamette, its students, and its faculty have been on the cutting edge of social and environmental sustainability for decades—making it a critical expression of our motto, "not unto ourselves alone are we born." A brief timeline (the attached appendicesx provides greater detail) highlights some of the major developments in our distinctive and historical approach to sustainability.
At Bell Labs, two Willamette graduates, Gerald Pearson ('26) and Daryl Chapin ('27), developed the first practical photovoltaic cell — the basic design used today on campus and around the world. Awarded honorary doctorates by Willamette in 1956, they also received several international science prizes for their work.
Willamette University founded one of the first interdisciplinary environmental science programs and departments in the nation.
1973 - 1975
Willamette faculty, including Russ Beaton, Jim Hanson, Tom Hibbard and Ed Stillings, helped write Oregon’s renowned comprehensive land use law and administrative rules.
Willamette University founded the Alternative Futures Project, exploring the linkages between the economy, social values, and environmental protection at the community scale.
The Politics and Economics departments featured co-taught courses addressing sustainability and brought in noted experts such as Herman Daly.
Students founded ECOS, the Environmental Careers and Outreach Society, hosting speakers, planning service projects, and helping young environmental professionals.
Former President Lee Pelton created the Willamette Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (WEST) in response to students and faculty requests to advance university sustainability planning and efforts. Also in 2001, Willamette established the Dempsey Environmental Lecture series. Paul Hawken presented the inaugural lecture.
Willamette faculty, students, and staff founded Sustainable Fairview Associates, a consortium transforming 275 acres of a former Oregon state hospital into a landmark experiment in sustainable community design.
President Pelton created the Sustainability Council, a presidentially appointed body supplanting WEST charged with advancing both environmental and social sustainability.
A significant year for sustainability on campus in several ways: the Center for Sustainable Communities was founded through a competitive process, and tasked with advancing sustainability research, teaching, and outreach; the Sustainability Law certificate program was created in the College of Law; and, President Pelton signed the American University Presidents’ Climate Change Commitment.
Willamette purchased Zena Forest, 305 acres of critical, habitat, forest, and farm in the West Salem Hills to establish a sustainability field station. The Atkinson School created its sustainability emphasis within the MBA program and concurrently created the Sustainability Management Certificate aimed at practicing managers. And, that year the National Wildlife Federation recognized Willamette as engaging in the most sustainability activities of 1,068 schools evaluated nationwide.
Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra Club, named Willamette University one of the nation’s greenest universities in its third annual “Cool Schools” issue. Willamette was the only Oregon university to make the list, placing 17th among the 20 schools featured for their efforts to stop climate change and operate sustainably.
Willamette University and IDEA offered the first Sustainability Advocacy Institute in the People’s Republic of China.
Willamette University entered into a formal affiliation with the Resource Innovation Group/Climate Leadership Initiative to advance research, teaching, and community engagement on climate change and sustainability.