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History of Sustainability at UD

Podcast tracks evolution of UD's sustainability trailblazers


The effort to forge a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus at the University of Dayton began well before George ('77) and Amanda Hanley's $12.5-million gift in 2014 established the Hanley Sustainability Institute (HSI).

Sophia Palmer, a December 2020 University of Dayton graduate, used the Spring 2021 semester to work as an undergrad fellow to produce a four-part podcast series that detailed four eras of how HSI and UD's sustainability program got to where it is.

Palmer, who majored in mechanical engineering and earned a sustainability minor, was an HSI student leader who decided early in her last semester to start a podcast focusing on HSI alumni, friends and others talking about sustainability.

Her idea pivoted to telling an oral history of sustainability efforts at UD beginning in about 1985. Various clubs and initiatives stopped and started along the way. Even though some details are lost to history, the journey has culminated in HSI launching a new strategic plan and the academic program offering four tracks in a major and a graduate certificate.

"Many sustainability initiatives that we see on campus today were started over 30 years ago," Palmer says in her podcast. "Here at the Hanley Sustainability Institute, we understand that we would not be where we are today without the passion, creativity and hard work of many students, faculty and staff across the University. That is why we wanted to document where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we’re going."

"This compelling set of podcasts provides a critical perspective on the rich tradition of sustainability education and action at the University of Dayton that prepared such fertile ground for the emergence of the Hanley Sustainability Institute in 2014," said Ben McCall, the HSI's executive director. "As HSI completes its strategic planning process, we look forward to building on the strong foundation that has been laid by decades of UD students, staff and faculty to advance sustainability education, research and operations both on campus and in our community."

Podcast episodes
Episode 1: EARTH (1985-1994)

In the late 1980s, UD students formed EARTH, a club dedicated to environmental causes. Marianist Sr. Leanne Jablonski, now HSI's scholar for faith and the environment and the director of the Marianist Environmental Education Center, held a protest sign during a balloon launch. The protest was covered by the Flyer News. The Flyer News' photo ran again in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In the photo to the right, Bro. Don Geiger was a professor in UD’s biology department and the founder of the Marianist Environmental Education Center at Mt. St. John. Geiger was a visionary for environmental sustainability in the Dayton area. Geiger, who died in December 2020, was mentioned by many people interviewed for the podcast.

Episode 2: From Environmentalism to Sustainability (1995-2004)

Nan Schivone, a University of Dayton student from 1990 to 1994, said Bro. Don Geiger was 'hugely influential' in her life. She wrote this letter after his passing and mentioned how he helped shape her and other UD students' ideas about sustainability. Geiger earned a B.S. in Biology from UD, and an M.S. in Botany and Ph.D in Plant Physiology from Ohio State University. He taught at Cleveland's Cathedral Latin High School and spent 44 years as a UD professor.

Episode 2
Episode 3: The Decade Leading up to the Hanleys' Gift (2005-2014)

In the top photo, George ('77) and Amanda Hanley announced their $12.5-million gift to establish the Hanley Sustainability Institute at the University of Dayton in September 2014. The Flyer News took this photo at the event. In the photos below the Hanleys, Rebecca Potter (left) and Bob Brecha (right) were two of many key faculty members who were instrumental in getting a sustainability minor launched at the University of Dayton. The 'SEE minor' was approved in 2008.

Episode 4: Becoming Leaders in Campus Sustainability (2005-2020)

In the top photo, Hanley Sustainability Institute students met with UD President Eric Spina to discuss the direction of the institute. Not long after this meeting, UD hired Ben McCall to be HSI's executive director. In the bottom photo, University of Dayton students, including many Hanley Sustainability Institute leaders, took part in the 2019 Climate Strike on UD's campus. HSI faculty and staff helped behind the scenes as the Sustainability Club and others planned the event.