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New Name for Environment & Sustainability School

environment & sustainability school aerial

The Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability

The generosity of one family has led to a name change for a Western school. Western Colorado University leaders on May 7 voted unanimously to name its Environment & Sustainability school after longtime benefactors. The school will now be known as the Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability.

The relationship between the Clark family and Western began in 1999, when Ralph E. Clark, Jr. offered an initial gift of $1,000 to support environmental studies. Two years later in 2001, he gave another $100,000 to boost a fledgling Environment & Sustainability major at Western.

In 2013, Ralph’s son Butch Clark took up the mantel, creating a new model for education.

environment & sustainability school name

Supporting Students and the Community

Through generous land and financial contributions, he founded a nonprofit organization by the name of “Coldharbour Institute,” to be supported by university faculty and students. Clark donated 334 acres along the Tomichi River and a historic home approximately seven miles east of Gunnison to create the Coldharbour Institute. His intent was to restore and protect the character of the land and its ecosystems.

In the years to follow, Butch Clark made regular contributions, helping to fund a faculty position and numerous “Clark Fellowships” for students seeking a Master in Environmental Management (MEM) from Western. Coldharbour became the learning laboratory for those students in a symbiotic relationship between the nonprofit and university.

“Butch believes in creative solutions for the community that comes out of the synergy between a nonprofit and a university,” said school Dean John Hausdoerffer, Ph.D. “This gift just solidifies his commitment to this partnership and his faith in it.”

Contributions to the Program

Collectively, the Clark contribution totals about $4.5 million, with $2 million of it serving as an endowment, generating about $100,000 annually in interest as a revenue stream for the program. Included is:

  • $25,000 per year for Clark Fellows (the MEM program will continue to give $25,000 per year in match);
  • $30,000 per year for the Coldharbour chair currently held by MJ Pickett (and MEM matches that to make it full-time—adding her teaching, mentoring and campus service to her Coldharbour executive director duties);
  • $30,000 per year for the Sustainable Development chair currently held by Luke Danielson, a half-time position;
  • $15,000 per year to enhance MEM project funding, elevating projects from Coldharbour to the far reaches of the globe (and helping fund the 25,000 hours of annual MEM projects).

students with pig on farm

A Supportive Family

Butch requested the name of the school be inclusive of his whole family, namely his wife Judy, who died three and a half years ago, and his father.

“Butch, his father Ralph and his late wife Judy have given so generously to fund student-driven projects to make a more sustainable world and to fund faculty who transform student leadership roles,” said Hausdoerffer. “But Butch also has given [his] whole heart and mind in elevating environmental education at Western for 20 years. Butch’s presence in the Gunnison Country is truly transformative, now celebrated with this transformative gift and naming.”

The Clark gift is a part of the university’s fundraising campaign, “Elevate Western,” which has totaled almost $10 million in seven years.

Learn more about the Western Colorado University Foundation.



Author Credit: Chris Rourke

Photo Credit: Mitchell Warnick, Anna Lhuillier, Greg Smith

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