December 2015 Archways

Environmental Matters

Parking DaySarah Gates ’16 and Caroline Cosby ’17 staff Bryn Mawr’s contribution to PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia.

Long before climate change made environmentalism an everyday issue, William and Johanna “Nan” Alderfer Harris ’51 worked assiduously to make sure their alma maters were preparing students for this challenge. Now, a $4 million dollar commitment to Bryn Mawr by the Harrises will serve as a capstone to a lifetime of advocacy and philanthropy.

Through a combination of outright giving and a future bequest, the gift will fund a new faculty position—the Nan Alderfer Harris ’51 Professorship in Environmental Studies—and support the sciences at Bryn Mawr College. In celebration of this gift, and all that they have done for the College, Bryn Mawr will name the soon-to-be-constructed atrium in the renovated Park Science Center after Nan.

A true Bi-Co couple, Nan and Bill (HC ’47) met while in school and have been married for more than 60 years. In Nan’s time as an alumna, she has served as a leader in her local club, as president of the Alumnae Association, as a longtime trustee, and now as trustee emeritus. Nan was also instrumental in the creation of the Bryn Mawr Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for which she volunteered for decades. Bill is a graduate, trustee emeritus, and longtime supporter of Haverford.

Their formal leadership roles in the Bi-Co, however, are only one of the many affectionate connections they have built across the Bryn Mawr and Haverford community. “It has been my privilege, along with so many students, faculty, trustees, administrators, and alumnae, to get to know Nan and Bill over the years. In addition to their kind friendship, thoughtful counsel, and steady leadership for so many years,” President Kim Cassidy notes, “it was Nan’s passion and the Harrises’ philanthropy that have allowed the College to grow the environmental studies program so quickly and so well.”

The Harrises’ deep love of and loyalty to Bryn Mawr has been truly transformational for the College. For Nan, the feeling is mutual. At her 50th reunion, Nan noted, “My years at Bryn Mawr enriched the rest of my life.”

Earth on the Brink
During the academic year, Bryn Mawr is inviting filmmakers, writers, scholars, and scientists to campus for a series of themed programs that explore the impact of environmental change on health, wealth, and humanity. Called Earth on the Brink, the series brings together students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i to investigate the impact of these themes on the quality of life in our local and global communities.

The early days of the fall semester featured a trio of events. On September 18, students and faculty participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual open-source global event, to transform a Philadelphia parking spot into a “Bryn Mawr Parklet.” The next day, students acted locally as they joined the Lower Merion community in a cleanup of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and then repaired to the Bryn Mawr Community Garden for a Salsa to Salsa event. Then on September 21, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute screened Shored Up, a documentary about the impact of sea-level rise on coastal communities. The documentary was followed by a panel discussion with Director Ben Kalina; Carol Hager, Professor of Political Science on the Clowes Professorship in Science & Public Policy at Bryn Mawr; and Ben Horton, a professor of Sea Level Change, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis & Tropical Cyclones at Rutgers University. Don Barber, associate professor of geology on the Harold Alderfer Chair in Environmental Studies, moderated.

In November, Camille Dungy, feminist poet and professor of English at Colorado State University, spoke on environmental issues and read from her recent book Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry.