Center for the Environment Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Kathy Chaffin
The Center for the Environment’s 15th anniversary celebration on November 10 elicited a host of praise and appreciation for the work of the Center and for those who have brought its mission to life.
Among the 80-plus people at the celebration included Catawba officials and professors, members of the Center Advisory Board and supporters. The Center is all of us, said Executive Director John Wear, and we all feel very proud of what we have accomplished.
Environmental Education major Sarah Moore, who serves as a student intern at the Center, spoke highly of everything from the building, which she described as a refuge for students, to the faculty, staff and supporters of the program.
“The Center has helped to shape the lives of the students,” Moore said. She expressed gratitude to the community, noting that “all who sponsor and support the work of the Center” make its programs possible. “Without you, it wouldn’t be here to support us as students. It really is teaching us to take the Center’s ideas into the communities where we will live after we graduate.”
In preparing for the Center’s anniversary celebration, Wear and his staff spent hours looking through about 5,000 photographs for a PowerPoint presentation.
The photographs included classrooms of students in Catawba College’s environmental program in the bottom of the Shuford Science Building, where the Center began. A few years later, a donation by the late Elizabeth Stanback – the largest single contribution ever given to the college – was used to build the Center facility.
The construction process was captured in photos, and those who watched could see the beautiful 21,000-square-foot facility being created. The celebration also marked the 10-year anniversary of the opening of what was one of the first green buildings in the state.
Wear said he was proud that Elizabeth Stanback lived to see the Center completed. “We really truly owe her so much,” he said.
Her son, Fred Stanback, who with his wife, Alice, has continued the family tradition of giving to the Center, was also recognized by Wear – as a close friend and mentor.
 “It’s time to celebrate,” Catawba President Dr. Joseph B. Oxendine said, “because this Center has accomplished a lot, and those of you who were at all acquainted with the National Environmental Summit know something about why we are excited about it and the good things it does.”
Larry Shirley, advisory board member and director of the N.C. Department of Commerce State Energy Office, made a toast, asking everyone to join him in celebrating the Center’s first 15 years. “I can’t wait to see 15 more,” he said.
From a statewide perspective, Shirley said the Center is a big part of the jewel that is Catawba College. “Look at all the things they have done,” he said, referring to the PowerPoint presentation. “The Center for the Environment is so special because of the people and partners it draws to them like Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), one of the most revered, intelligent organizations that we have in our country when it comes to thinking about energy and our future.”
Marty Pickett, executive director of RMI, serves on the Center’s Advisory Board and attended the celebration.
Dr. Rick Stephens, Provost for Catawba, recognized Wear’s role in the success of the Center for the Environment. “We’ve heard John thank everybody here and that’s all true, but I do want to say one thing. We all know that the Center and John Wear are virtually one and the same.
“If it weren’t for his vision and persistence and continued efforts and the whole variety of ways of bringing people together that John has committed to this, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Also in attendance were David Setzer, executive director of the Robertson Family Foundation, and Mark Seifel, general manager of Schneider Electric, both sponsors of this summer’s “Redesigning Our Future” National Environmental Summit for High School Students held at the Center in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute.
Honored at the celebration were three organizations selected by the Center’s Campaign for Clean Air as Champions for Clean Air: Roush Fenway Racing, the city of Concord and the Centralina Council of Governments/Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition.
Dolly Farrell, who recently joined the Center as development director, said, “We are delighted to shine a light tonight on these exemplars of corporate environmental responsibility, and thanks to them, our citizens can breathe easier.”
Accepting the Champions Awards, crafted from recycled glass, were: Ian Prince, director of facilities and chief sustainability officer for Roush Fenway Racing; Daniel Nuckolls, fleet services director for Concord; and Jim Prosser, executive director of the Centralina Council of Governments, Bill Duston, Centralina’s planning director, and Jason Wagner, sustainability program manager.
Prince said the award validates a lot of what Roush Fenway Racing is trying to do for the right reasons. “Any improvements that we make to our organization and our facility are well founded and researched,” he said, “from the financial end to the environmental end and how it affects our future.”
Nuckolls, fleet services director for Concord, accepted the Champions Award for its efforts to incorporate alternative fuels and clean vehicles in the city’s fleet and its robust transit and commuter services which take cars off the road.
 The Centralina Council of Governments and Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition were instrumental in facilitating the Derrick Travel Center Truck Stop Electrification project in Rowan County.
The Center for the Environment at Catawba College was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on prevalent environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country. For more information, visit or