Armed with a $13.5 million gift from a trustee, Pitzer is moving forward with the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability Initiative. The college aims to acquire a portion of the Bernard Field Station (BFS) and to open a center there dedicated to the study of environmental sustainability, with a focus on sustainable design and architecture.
“Pitzer is interested in acquiring the old infirmary at the Bernard Field Station and the surrounding acreage, which we would then be committed to preserving and restoring,” said Pitzer Environmental Analysis (EA) Professor Paul Faulstich. “We plan to repurpose and renovate the infirmary using the latest green technology, and [make] it a really useful gathering space where we could have classrooms, laboratory space, and meetings.”
In conjunction with the creation of this center, Pitzer will hire a new EA faculty member and create a new EA track entitled “Sustainability in the Built Environment.” The job description for the new professor has been approved, and a committee comprised of faculty and students will hire someone to start working by fall 2012.
“I think it is crucial that the EA departments continue to expand to meet the needs of students as well as to address the fact that understanding and addressing environmental issues is perhaps the most important issue facing humankind,” said EA major Lindon Pronto PZ ’11. Pronto is a co-president of Students for the Bernard Field Station (SBFS), an organization that promotes the preservation of what Pronto says is “an invaluable resource.”
Thanks primarily to a $13.5 million gift from Pitzer Trustee Susan Pritzker and her husband Nicholas, Pitzer College is “optimistic that this is going to come together,” according to Faulstich.
The one remaining obstacle for the project is approval to acquire a portion of the BFS from the Claremont University Consortium (CUC), which currently owns the approximately 14 acres of the BFS that Pitzer is looking at.
“Pitzer has to get final approval to acquire land from CUC, but I don’t see any major impediments,” Faulstich said. “Ideally, we’d have that space ready to go when this new hire comes on board. It’s an aspirational timeline.”
According to Faulstich, Robert Redford “gave it his stamp of approval” after the college had been discussing the creation of a conservancy on the BFS for a few years. Redford is an Academy Award-winning actor and director, and an environmental activist who has supported sustainability efforts at the Claremont Colleges for years.
“He’s very judicious about lending his name and his resources to projects,” Faulstich said. “That he has endorsed this one in this way is very generous and I think it gives us a lot of credence in the world out there.”
The Pritzkers’ lead gift will pay for the creation of a new faculty position and for the repurposing of the infirmary. The college still needs to secure funding to purchase the land from CUC.
“There are a lot of pieces of this puzzle that still need to come together,” Faulstich said. “But the vision’s strong, we have a really generous lead gift, and now it’s a matter of making it happen. This is the exciting part but it’s also the challenging part.”