Sterling College has launched the most ambitious fundraising effort in its history. Nourish the Roots: The Campaign for Sterling has a goal of $9 million, and the College announced that it has already raised $4.5 million in gifts and commitments toward that goal.
The heart of the campaign is strengthening the College’s abiding commitment to environmental stewardship. “Sterling has always been a pioneer,” said President Matthew Derr, “and it has consistently emphasized what is important and what is authentic.”
He continued, “Timidity has never been in our nature. We’ve embraced nearly sixty years of evolution and we have prepared Sterling graduates to do important work around the world. It is the powerful outcomes of our alumni that underscore the value of a Sterling education, and has encouraged us to embark on this campaign.”
John “Jed” Williamson, President Emeritus of Sterling College, said of the campaign: “Nourish the Roots does a tremendous job of connecting the history of Sterling to the present day, and building upon the College’s strengths for the future.”
Nourish the Roots has three priorities for funding: scholarship support for students, endowed support for faculty, and the creation of an energy-efficient campus that relies on renewable sources of energy.
Living By Our Values
Nourish the Roots will enhance the College’s leadership role in campus sustainability. Sterling College was the first college in Vermont, and the third in the nation, to fully divest its endowment from fossil fuels. This year, the College will become one of the few higher education campuses in the world that produces as much solar energy on campus as it uses in a year. Building upon these accomplishments, the College has committed to eliminating fossil fuels for heating the campus by 2020.
The campaign looks to raise $3 million to support the college’s ability to conserve energy and to strengthen students’ academic experiences by renovating key academic buildings. Plans include the Center for Woodworking & Rural Arts in Paradise Hall, the Simpson Hall Science & Ecology Center, and the Jed & Perry F. Williamson Center for Outdoor Education. Continuing support for the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, dedicated in 2014, is also included in this goal.
Implementation will require both a focus on conservation and renewable energy sources. The campaign will focus on the replacement of old heating systems, windows, and equipment, but it will also address the critical need for better teaching and living spaces for our students and faculty. Moving from producing no electricity, to producing as much as we consume, is a first step through our relationship with AllEarth Renewables and the addition of eleven new solar trackers on campus. The college will also move away from use of fuel oil to heat its buildings by installing new renewable systems, including a central heating plant.
“Living by the values we espouse is essential to the integrity of Sterling,” said Marian Burros, New York Times journalist and member of the Sterling College Board of Trustees. Important stakeholders nationwide have recognized Sterling for its commitment to renewable energy and environmental stewardship. In 2014, the College was rated the #1 college in the nation for serving “real food” on campus, according to the Real Food Challenge. Recently, the College also received a STARS Gold Rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
The campaign also has a $4 million goal for scholarships. “Because the need for Sterling College graduates is so great, and our environmental stewardship mission is so critical, providing financial aid to students is one of our highest priorities,” said Derr.
As Sterling is only one of seven federally recognized Work Colleges in the nation, all students work on campus in support of their educational costs. Nearly 100% of the current student body receives Sterling grant funding, and over 50% are eligible for Pell grants.
Endowed Support for Faculty
The campaign also includes a $2 million goal for endowed support for faculty. “Sterling has a remarkable and devoted faculty committed to the mission of the College and to providing a rigorous academic education,” said John Elder, a member of the Sterling College Board of Trustees and Middlebury College Professor Emeritus. “Faculty work collaboratively within Sterling’s interdisciplinary curriculum to support students on their path toward graduation and their careers in environmental stewardship.”
The College plans to work closely with donors who wish to recognize the work of its faculty to determine opportunities for two newly named positions. Endowed faculty positions could include areas of study such as Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Sustainable Agriculture, Outdoor Education, or Sustainable Food Systems.
“We are deeply grateful for the enthusiasm and generosity for this campaign,” Derr said. “We have had historic gifts from alumni of all generations, friends, and the community. This level of success proves that Sterling College is the leading voice for environmental stewardship education.”
The silent phase of the campaign has included the largest single donation in Sterling College’s history, a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The gift is a challenge to be matched over the next two years by trustees, alumni, and friends of the College.
For more information about the Nourish the Roots campaign, or to make a contribution, call 802-586-7711 x101.