We in the sustainability in higher education community are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Toni Nelson on April 11. Toni Nelson was an outstanding colleague at Second Nature, and a passionate advocate for a healthy, just and sustainable society through education and practice. Toni played key roles in the early days of AASHE and then at Second Nature, bringing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (now the Carbon Commitment) from concept to reality by combining strong vision, focused pragmatism, and unfailing attention to detail. She helped create important technical and human support programs at both organizations that carry on today.
Through her persistence, creativity, and willingness to do the necessary work, Toni was always bringing people together. She was creative, adventurous, outgoing, funny, and a great ambassador for sustainability and for Second Nature. Within the organization, she was a strong mentor to, and a fierce supporter of, her staff. Outside of the organization, she was an effective organizer, and did an outstanding job of building and connecting a community of practitioners at signatory institutions.
While her work was driven by deeply-held principles, she always strove to find time to enjoy those things that inspired her work in the first place: nature, traveling and loved ones. In this way, she was always seeking to embody the values that she espoused: honesty; effectiveness; and celebration of, and care for, the Earth.
Continuing her professional path in building sustainable communities, Toni recently worked with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to identify and implement state and utility-level strategies that support renewable energy market development throughout the Southeast, with a particular focus on solar energy.
We, her friends and colleagues, will deeply miss her warmth, intelligence, sense of humor and intensity. We plan to honor her memory and the contributions she made to the development of sustainability as a profession and a movement. More details will be shared when they become available.
In the end, all of the work we do is about caring for and making a good life for everyone in the world, starting with our colleagues who become a part of our extended family. Thank you for being part of this family, and for your commitment to each other. We are grateful to know you, and for the privilege of working together for a better future.