ASU Chief Goes After Fellow Academic Leaders

MichaelCrowThe 2008 Climate Leadership Summit of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment concluded its two days of meetings in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on June 6. Speaking at the closing luncheon, the chairman of the ACUPCC and president of Arizona State University, Michael M. Crowe did not tiptoe around the sensitive topic of membership.

Crowe congratulated the 550 colleges and universities whose presidents have already pledged to Climate Commitment on their campuses, while noting another 4,000 have not yet done so. This head of a major public university himself, Crowe interpreted the slowness of other academic CEOs to sign on as an indication that “most college presidents are cowards.” He urged his audience representing the schools of higher education who are members of the ACUPCC to do whatever they could to encourage the other heel-dragging presidents to join their coalition.

Crowe told his fellow ACUPCC colleagues that colleges and universities have an obligation to do more than “produce leaders…we have to lead ourselves.” Crowe stressed that all of their schools must teach their students about the necessity of climate neutrality “through what we do.”

“We need to make sustainable connections between buildings and nature, between people and the outside.”

Before the lunch began, one ACUPCC member from New England offered a spontaneous toast to Peter Wege for his visionary environmental thinking. John Lebica, Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability at Cape Cod Community College, saluted Wege as “somebody who has built such a strong foundation for all of us to add on to.”

Junior Achievement of West Michigan Honors Peter M. Wege

peteredithAt a black-time banquet in the Amway Grand Hotel, Junior Achievement of West Michigan named Peter M. Wege the winner of the 2008 Edward J. Frey Distinguished Achievement Award. It was Edward J. Frey, a Grand Rapids banker and insurance entrepreneur, who founded the local chapter of Junior Achievement in 1955.

Peter M. Wege, the JA program noted, has been a champion for causes in West Michigan for all of his adult life. Since his time serving in World War II, he has dedicated himself to taking care of the environment and other causes in our community.

The Junior Achievement program also recognized Peter’s father, Peter Martin Wege, who founded Metal Office Furniture, now Steelcase Inc., in 1912. Peter Martin Wege. Along with his early partners David Hunting and Walter Idema, Peter Martin Wege was one of the first leaders named to Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame.

Junior Achievement of West Michigan sends business professionals into West Michigan schools where they teach the skills of succeeding in the world of free enterprise. Among the specific topics, these volunteers show students how to apply and interview for jobs. They stress the importance of education, show young people how to handle their own finances, and teach them how to compete in a global economy.

Over the 2007-2008 school year, volunteers for Junior Achievement of West Michigan went into over 200 schools and reached over 60,000 students in grades kindergarten through high school.

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Since the early 1990s, Peter Wege has been actively involved with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Michigan where he went to school. In 1991, when the SNR & E won the Environmental Protection Agency’s national competition to house the country’s first National Pollution Prevention Center, Michigan had an important requirement.

A major aspect of the EPA grant was that the NPP Center would appoint an External Advisory Board made up of people outside the academic campus who were leaders in the private sector. Having heard of Peter M. Wege’s environmental influence on Steelcase Inc., where he was an executive, Dr. Jonathan Bulkley and his younger assistant Dr. Greg Keoleian, asked him to head up the first External Advisory Board.

It was the beginning of a mutual admiration society between Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor that led to several collaborative projects, including the annual Wege Lectures given on the Michigan campus. It was also the beginning of a deep friendship among the three men.

In the late 1990s, the environmental thrust moved beyond preventing pollution to promoting sustainability. The National Pollution Prevention Center evolved into the Center for Sustainable Systems, with Peter Wege continuing to chair the External Advisory Board. Among many definitions of sustainability, one of the clearest summaries is that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

One of the CSS’s important callings is to educate people beyond the academic world about sustainability. Their new web site is an important medium to achieving that end. The CSS Fact Sheets are one-page snapshots on the environmental impacts of everything from personal transportation to residential buildings to how our country supplies and distributes water.

While the information in these Fact Sheets is often unnerving, they do offer various solutions and alternatives. The Fact Sheets are a great resource for mainstream Americans not familiar with the environmental lingo as they are written in clear English with lots of graphs, charts, and drawings to help viewers visualize the numbers.

Pictured above is the University of Michigan’s Dana Building housing the School of Natural Resources and Environment. As the Dana approached its 100th birthday in the 1990s, the dilapidated classroom building faced demolition. But SNR & E Professors Jonathan Bulkley and Greg Keoleian convinced the University to instead restore Dana as an example of green rebuilding.

Peter Wege was involved from the beginning in what became known as “The Greening of Dana.” The Dana restoration gained national attention as a hands-on clinic for SNR & E students in environmental reconstruction. In 2005, the Dana Building received a gold rating from the United States Green Building Council making it the greenest academic building in the state of Michigan.

Be part of Pollution Prevention Week September 15 - 21, 2008, by incorporating activies into your daily routine that reduce, reuse and recycle waste. This is an opportunity for individuals, schools, communities and industries to share ideas on how to protect the economy, improve health and reduce energy costs.
Be part of Pollution Prevention Week September 15 – 21, 2008, by incorporating activies into your daily routine that reduce, reuse and recycle waste. This is an opportunity for individuals, schools, communities and industries to share ideas on how to protect the economy, improve health and reduce energy costs.

NEW SOLAR PANELS SAVE ENERGY, PROMOTE LEARNING

terrisolarOn a hot August day in 2006, Peter M. Wege had the honor of cutting a big red ribbon to open the newly rebuilt East Grand Rapids Library and City Hall on Reeds Lake. The privilege was Peter’s not only for his generous financial support, but also for his prodding the city to build according to environmental protocols. The remodeled City Complex is now been officially declared LEED certified by the United States Green Building Council.

The Wege Foundation’s generosity and vision enabled the city to make great environmental strides. The Foundation helped fund the reuse of a long-empty water reservoir by turning it into handsome offices and recreation rooms overlooking the lake. The top of the old cement reservoir became the city’s first green roof, thanks to Peter. And the Foundation gave East Grand Rapids a water-filter system that cleans up the business district’s dirty storm water before it flows into Reeds Lake.

In the midst of the ribbon-cutting festivities that August morning, Peter Wege asked EGR’s City Manager Brian Donovan why the new complex didn’t have solar panels. The surprised city manager answered that the remodeling budget simply didn’t have the money for them. The other part of that reply was that The Wege Foundation had already done so much for the new building, the city was not about to ask for more funds to do solar panels.

“Well, you need solar here,” Peter said pointing at the library. And on the spot, as he often does, he said, “Order the panels and we’ll pay for them.”

By April 2008, the solar panels were installed and the sun’s free energy was already helping run the East Grand Rapids Library and City Complex. The attached photo shows the two kinds of solar panels: the flat, film version are seen in the back on the roof and the blue, angled panels at the front of the picture. The city estimates that the free sun power will provide 3% of the electricity this complex uses in a year. It could go higher as in the first month of going operational, the solar panels provided 5% of the electricity needed.

As important as the energy savings is to Peter Wege, the learning opportunity these solar panels provide means just as much to him. He and his foundation have always been about educating people, especially children. The picture here shows Terri McCarthy, V.P. of Programs for The Wege Foundation, explaining the solar monitor in the EGR Library to sisters Daisy and Pixie Brown.

By touching the monitor’s screen, students and adults can follow the daily and hourly progress of how much free sun energy is helping power the building they are in, thus reducing the amount of fossil fuel consumed. The monitor also calculates how much global-warming carbon dioxide is not going into the air because the sun’s energy has no chemical emissions.

By putting the kiosk monitor right inside the EGR Library’s entrance, the hope is that library patrons will get in the habit of checking on how much clean energy is getting used that day—and, consequently, how many of their tax dollars are being saved on the city’s lowered electric bills!

PETER WEGE RECEIVES HONORARY DOCTORATE FROM THE U OF M

PHDegreebig (1)The University of Michigan paid its highest tribute to lifelong East Grand Rapids resident Peter M. Wege by awarding him an honorary degree as a Doctor of Laws. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University, gave the Honorary Doctorate to Peter M. Wege during the University of Michigan’s winter commencement ceremonies on December 15, 2007.

In introducing Wege to the graduating seniors and guests in Chrysler Arena, Dr. Coleman said this to the crowd:

Peter Melvin Wege has dedicated his life to improving global ecology through relentless persuasion, prodding people and organizations into undertaking initiatives and achieving results that never would have occurred without his advocacy. He has devoted over half a century of his own energy and resources to the University of Michigan and the State of Michigan.

Dr. Coleman told the audience that Wege left the University in his sophomore year to join the U.S. Army Air Corps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “He not only defended our nation against enemy forces,”Dr. Coleman said, “but also realized we needed to protect our country against the harsh consequences of our own pollution…Mr. Wege became an early activist regarding the ecology of Michigan, incorporating the University in his motto of “Go Blue—Think Green!”

In 1967, she said, he started The Wege Foundation to honor his parents, Sophia Louise and Peter Martin Wege, principal founder of Steelcase. In citing The Wege Foundation’s support for the University, Dr. Coleman talked about his service as the first chairperson of the advisory board for the National Pollution Prevention Center in Ann Arbor, now the Center for Sustainable Systems.

Coleman described him as “a robust supporter of the University’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.” Among his gifts, he sponsors the annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on campus. Speakers for the Wege Lecture have included Nobel Laureate Al Gore, the Prime Minister of Norway, and this year William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor, Inc.

According to President Coleman, Wege considers one of the Foundations “best success stories” the environmental renovation of the century-old Dana Building that houses the School of Natural Resources and Environment. In 2005, the Dana Building received a gold rating from the USGBC making it the greenest academic building in Michigan. The new Ph.D. Wege calls the “the greening of Dana” the perfect example of his motto, ‘Go Blue, Think Green.’”
President Coleman noted that Wege is finishing his second book on economicology calling it “a word he coined to promote a balance between a healthy ecology and a profitable economy.”

In presenting the Doctor of Laws diploma, Dr. Coleman concluded:

Mr. Wege, your extraordinary vision and deep-rooted commitment have made our planet a better place for future generations. You have shown us that it is not enough to be passionate about a cause, but that we need to translate our enthusiasm into action. By devoting your support to educational efforts as well as specific projects, you are ensuring that your mission will continue far into the future. You represent the best ideals of the University of Michigan, and we are proud to welcome you back in order to present you with the honorary degree.

G. R. MAGAZINE NAMES PETER M. WEGE ONE OF CITY’S MOST POWERFUL

GRmagizineThe December issue of Grand Rapids Magazine published brief profiles on the 25 people their staff considered the city’s most important. The first person listed was Peter M. Wege. In Peter Wege’s biography titled “Looking Beyond Horizons,” reporter Curt Wozniak gave him credit for making Grand Rapids, Michigan, the greenest city in the country for its size.

The article explains: Years ago, The Wege Foundation decided to stop capital grants for any building that is not environmentally friendly. As a result, Grand Rapids boasts the most square-footage per capita of buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building LEED program, including the new Grand Rapids Art Museum which exists thanks to Wege’s support.

The writer goes on to recognize Wege for his environmental outreach that extends beyond his home city of Grand Rapids. In particular, the article cites Wege’s leadership on protecting the Great Lakes. Wozniak concludes by writing about Wege’s successful efforts, “His Healing Our Waters Coalition is backed by several U.S. legislators working to establish a united strategy for Great Lakes restoration.”