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ASU establishes International Institute For Sustainability to address regional and global environmental threats

Receives founding gift of $15 million from philanthropist Julie Ann Wrigley

Arizona State University has created the International Institute for Sustainability to deal with global and regional ecological, economic and societal issues in an effort to ensure that we maintain a sustainable quality of life on Earth.

The Institute is being launched with a founding gift of $15 million from Julie Ann Wrigley, a philanthropist and member of the ASU Foundation board of directors and co-chair of the Foundation’s Women and Philanthropy program.

In announcing the new institute and the gift, ASU President Michael Crow said he expects the university to quickly join Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and a handful of other institutions around the world as a leader in the important and emerging field of sustainability. The institute is expected to develop into a degree-granting school within two years, Crow says, and would make ASU the first university in the world with a school fully dedicated to research, education and solutions to real-world problems in sustaining life on Earth.

“Sustainability is at the intersection of environmental, economic and societal stewardship,” Crow says. “The field of sustainability may, in large measure, determine whether life will be possible on Earth in a century or more, but the field is so new that it has yet to be defined. Establishing the institute allows us to bring together the disciplines needed to deal with challenges of modern society – explosive urban growth, environmental threats and societal inequities.”

“The International Institute for Sustainability is both the culmination and the beginning of a lifelong dream,” Wrigley says. “It’s the culmination because much of my life work has been devoted to working with conservation and the environment and coming up with questions of how we create a better quality of life. The institute is a beginning of a dream, because it will answer some of those questions. I chose ASU because it was the best place to create a world-class institute, and it will have the greatest opportunity to make the biggest difference.”

The $15 million gift provided by Wrigley to the ASU Foundation is a major endorsement of the programs at ASU and of the initiative the university is taking in sustainability, says Jonathan Fink, vice president for research and economic affairs.

“To our knowledge, this is the single largest gift ever dedicated to sustainability, and it will give our initiatives a huge boost,” Fink says. “It will allow us to begin to meet the challenges we face today and in the future.”

Julie Wrigley’s involvement in the International Institute for Sustainability is a natural outgrowth of her philanthropic activities. In addition to serving on the ASU Foundation board of directors, Wrigley is a member of the board of directors of The Peregrine Fund Inc., and a member of the Board of Visitors for the Stanford Institute for International Studies, with a particular interest in their Center for Environmental Science and Policy.

Wrigley is president and chief executive officer of the Julie Ann Wrigley Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation committed to the environment, health care and education. Wrigley and her husband, William Wrigley Jr., were instrumental in the creation of the USC/Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island.

Wrigley serves as president and CEO of Wrigley Investments and is a member of the board of directors of the E.W. Scripps Co. She also is a member of the board of directors of several investment funds affiliated with Bessemer Trust Co.

President Crow appointed Charles Redman director of the institute. Redman is director of ASU’s Center for Environmental Studies and co-director of the newly formed Decision Center for a Desert City and the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research Project.

“To make the world sustainable, we need to create technologies and we need to protect the environment, but we also need to meet the human concerns involved in all of this,” Redman said. “We need to raise the quality of life for all classes of people and improve the environment around all of us.”

The institute will involve close cooperation with at least nine ASU colleges, schools and institutes, including liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business, law, and architecture and environmental design. The institute will provide a framework for ASU’s existing and emerging strengths in environmental studies, urbanization, economics and public policy, including the Center for Environmental Studies; programs in Resource Management, and Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technologies; and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes to tackle the complex issues of sustainability.

The institute will form partnerships with a number of premier institutions around the world, including Stanford; Harvard; MIT; the University of Washington; the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico; Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; the University of Cape Town in South Africa; and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Redman says Phoenix will be the springboard to study and test sustainability ideas.

Located in metropolitan Phoenix, one of the nation’s fastest-growing urban regions, ASU will deal with a number of local challenges whose solutions have global application. These include rapid urbanization, water management in an arid environment and border issues, such as changing demographics and environmental equality.

While studying these issues, the institute will produce science-based options as solutions to the threats confronting decision makers today, and help shed light on challenges faced by people around the globe.

“Almost all new population growth in the next 30 years will be in urban areas around the world,” Redman says. “Studying a rapidly growing area like Phoenix can provide insights that can be used globally.”

Several other ASU programs will be brought to bear on sustainability and urbanization issues.

ASU’s Greater Phoenix 2100 Project is taking a multidisciplinary approach to studying the region’s cultural, socioeconomic and physical settings with a view toward environmental planning for the next 100 years. The Urban Heat Island project is studying the causes of – and solutions to – the increasing average nighttime temperature in metropolitan Phoenix. The 100 Cities Project will research common patterns of urbanization in 100 strategic cities worldwide.

New ASU capabilities also will play an important role for the institute.

ASU recently received a $6.9 million National Science Foundation grant to establish the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), which will study the decision processes used to plan and manage water resources and desert city growth. DCDC will use another new ASU facility, the Decision Theater for the New Arizona. The Decision Theater will use the latest in three-dimensional visualization, providing an immersive environment for discussing research and policy questions, identifying common needs and interests, and creating models to explore patterns, relationships and the implications of actions in complex environments.

By Skip Derra. Derra, with Marketing & Strategic Communications, can be reached at (480) 965-4823 or (


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