By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature

(This article appears in the July, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Signatory Presidents at the 2012 SummitThe 6th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit took place June 21st-22nd in Washington, DC at American University. 53 signatory presidents and senior staff from over 65 institutions gathered to celebrate the first five years of the ACUPCC and to respond to the summit theme of Economic Renewal: jump-starting a sustainable economy through the ACUPCC.  The attendees discussed ways for advancing peer-to-peer learning and support across the ACUPCC, and identified next steps to foster the ongoing sustainability transformation of higher education by preparing students for the 21st century economy, increasing affordability and access through cost savings, and advancing innovation through research, experimentation, and role-modeling solutions in campus operations.



Special Report: Celebrating Five Years of Climate Leadership

The ACUPCC released a special report: Celebrating Five Years of Climate Leadership | The Progress and Promise of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. A special report, Celebrating Five Years of Climate LeadershipThe Progress and Promise of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, was released at the Summit, detailing successes from signatory campuses across the country and innovation in education, emissions reductions, financing, and more.


The Founding Signatory Awards

Five years ago, a group of visionary college and university presidents gathered to initiate the ACUPCC. They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to make a commitment to action for the sake of their students and society.

The 12 founding signatories recognized in a special awards ceremony during the opening reception included:The Founding Signatory Award Recipients. From left: Kathleen Schatzberg, Cape Cod Community College, David Hales, College of the Atlantic, Gifford Pinchot III, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, James Lowe accepting the award on behalf of Jo Ann Gora, Ball State University, and Morgan Olsen, accepting the award on behalf of Michael Crow, Arizona State University.

  • Michael Crow, Arizona State University
  • Gifford Pinchot III, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
  • Jo Ann Gora, Ball State University
  • Paul Zingg, California State University, Chico
  • Kathleen Schatzberg, Cape Cod Community College
  • David Hales, College of the Atlantic
  • Darroch “Rocky” Young, L.A. Community College District
  • Mary Spilde, Lane Community College
  • Douglas Treadway, Ohlone College
  • Loren J. Anderson, Pacific Lutheran University
  • Bernard Machen, University of Florida
  • Oberlin College

Visionary Leadership Awards 

Two outstanding leaders were recognized for their contributions and accomplishments in advancing sustainability in education and society. Mary Anne (Anderson) Lanier accepted a posthumous award for her father, Ray C. Anderson, for his leadership in business and education. Dr. David Orr of Oberlin College accepted an award for his vision in sustainability education.

The Climate Leadership Awards

Ten schools received Climate Leadership Awards for demonstrating unparalleled campus innovation and climate leadership.  The awards were designed by students at the Pratt Institute using reclaimed redwood from New York City water towers.

Read more about the award winners and award design here.


David Hales, Chair of the Board, Second Nature; President Emeritus, College of the Atlantic, and Neil Kerwin , President of the hosting institution, American University, welcomed the audience and keynote speaker, Dianne Dillon-Ridgley.  Ms. Dillon-Ridgley, an environmentalist and human rights activist who has worked on issues of the environment and sustainability for over thirty years encouraged the audience to continue their strong leadership. To do so, she had participants envision that they were attending a future conference in 2075 and asked them, “have you done enough to ensure  the creation of a just and sustainable society?”

Bill McKibben, environmental author and founder of also addressed participants with an inspiring video during the opening reception.

On Friday, Dr. David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College , and Marvin Krislov, President, Oberlin College, detailed their work on the Oberlin Project and the importance of connecting campus to community development.  Liz Clark, Director, Congressional Relations, NACUBO spoke about the newly released policy brief Higher Education: Leading the Nation to a Safe & Secure Energy Future, that explores how to enhance energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives for colleges and universities. Debera Johnson, Academic Director of Sustainability, Pratt Institute and Roy Koch, Provost, Portland State University discussed the Academic Committee’s just released strategy document that outlines goals for integrating comprehensive sustainability education across institutional boundaries by encouraging faculty development and curriculum exchange.

The lunch panel Uniting Higher Education & Communities for a Sustainable Future, featured Svante Myrick, Mayor of Ithaca, NY, Dr. Peter Bardaglio, Senior Advisor, Second Nature, Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, and John Childers – President and CEO, Consortium of Universities (Washington, DC), and was moderated by Neil Kerwin, President, American University.  The panelists addressed the question, “How do we amplify and expand exemplary community development partnerships that advance sustainability by engaging higher education, business, and government?”


Working Session I: World Cafe

Mitchell Thomashow, Director, Presidential Fellows Program, Second Nature and President Emeritus, Unity College, facilitated the first working session of the day, inspiring an open-ended conversation regarding the main themes of the conference, organized around three converging areas of interest: preparedness, opportunity, and innovation.

Working Session II: Strategies for Federal Investment and Academic Integration of Sustainability

Participants engaged in guided group dialogue on how to catalyze presidential leadership to implement the recommendations within the energy policy brief and academic strategy document. Carrying on the year-long work of the ACUPCC committees to provide strategic guidance and prospects for incorporating sustainability with federal policies, national educational leadership, and campus-wide academic integration.

Working Session III: Implementation, Next Steps, and Commitments

To close the summit participants discussed how to implement the next stage of higher education presidential leadership to advance climate action planning, sustainability, and economic vitality, and made commitments to do so on their campuses, addressing the following:

  • What should the ACUPCC do in the next five years around this theme?
  • What is the role of senior leadership in ensuring real impact?
  • How do we maximize the effectiveness, stature and reach of the ACUPCC while accomplishing these objectives?


Second Nature would like to thank the staff of American University for their partnership in hosting the event, Bon Appetit, (ACUPCC Gold Sponsor) for providing the terrific sustainable food, Haley & Aldrich (ACUPCC Silver Sponsor) for their generous support in recognizing the founding signatories, and all attendees, who made this event a truly remarkable moment in the progress of the ACUPCC and sustainability in higher education.