What is the Class Gift?

 The Class of '68's 50th Reunion Gift:

Support Swarthmore’s Commitment to 

Carbon Neutrality by 2035 and the Paris Climate Agreement.


After the announcement this past May of the United States’ planned withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Swarthmore added its name to the “We Are Still In” letter, a declaration from “1,219 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the US...in pursuit of climate action.”

Swarthmore’s commitment is to deliver “concrete emissions reductions that will help meet America’s emissions pledge under the Paris Agreement.”[1] To that end, Swarthmore has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2035 and to serving as a leader among other higher education institutions in emissions reductions and sustainability.  

Our 50th Reunion class gift will support two projects initiated by the Department of Sustainability toward that goal (Refer to this website [4] for a history of sustainability at Swarthmore, particularly of the Office of Sustainability.):  

1. President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship

Launched during the 2016-2017 school year, the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF)[5] matches students with staff and faculty mentors for a year long course and associated paid internship to research and implement sustainability projects.  A collaboration between the President’s Office, the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies program, and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the PSRF program fosters cross-campus cooperation on projects that align with the larger sustainability goals of the College.

Our Class of '68 goal is to endow one or more Sustainability Research Fellowships at $125,000 each to be administered by the Department of Sustainability.  The Fellowships we endow will be awarded only to projects that support the college's commitment to carbon neutrality by 2035 and the Paris Climate Agreement.  

President Valerie Smith fully supports the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowships (PSRF).  In its first full year, they will have 12 Fellows researching projects ranging from carbon pricing to the stewardship of Crum woods, from energy efficiency through building control systems to energy efficiency with biofuels. 

Fellows are looking into sustainable food systems, behavior change around sustainability, transportation, and achieving zero waste (See Executive Summaries here).[8]  These projects will change how Swarthmore and the college community think about a host of issues.

The Fellows apply in their sophomore year or above and are selected competitively.  The winners are challenged to assume leadership roles bringing together faculty and students with grounds and arboretum staff with the provost and Vice-Presidents and with neighboring communities. They will change what happens at Swarthmore and how the college relates to the community.  And they will go out into the world full of ideas, enthusiasm, and practical experience in the issues surrounding emissions reductions. 

The PSRF projects simultaneously help the College reduce its own carbon footprint while supporting its standing as an exemplary institution in its efforts to reach its Paris commitment. One of the fellows Aaron Metheny ‘18 helped to develop Swarthmore’s internal carbon pricing program, worked with President Smith to endorse a national price on carbon through the “Put a Price on It” campaign, and set the foundation for a Green Revolving Fund (see below).

The executive summaries for the 2016-17 Fellowship projects are available here[6]. The Class of ‘68 could provide meaningful support to the continued success of this young program.

2.  The Green Revolving Fund

The Green Revolving Fund provides capital for energy efficient projects and renewable energy installations with a financial payback. The annual financial savings resulting from those projects will then be revolved back into the fund to continue to support similar projects in the future.

The Green Revolving Fund already has a million and a half dollars worth of projects to undertake as reported in The Energy Strategy for Sustainability and Resilience[7]  - from converting heating systems from oil to natural gas to updating temperature controls, from modernizing lighting systems for energy efficient bulbs to retrofitting older buildings to conserve energy.  Each project would directly and immediately reduce Swarthmore’s green house gas emissions thus contributing to Swarthmore’s reaching its goal of zero emissions by 2035 and also would immediately start “paying” money back into the Green Revolving Fund which would in turn support more projects. 

Our goal is to raise a minimum of $125,000 for the Green Revolving fund although the fund has no minimums.

With our gift, the Green Revolving Fund will begin work on a number of the projects on its list, which will realize the efficiencies contained in each project that will, in turn, begin to pay back the fund.  This will be a most vivid demonstration to the President, the Board, the faculty, and future classes of students and alumni that this is an essential and immediately beneficial idea that has alumni support. 

Ideally, we will as a class be able to raise at least $250,000 for our class gift - $125,000 to endow a President's Sustainability Research Fellow and $125,000 to start the wheel of the Green Revolving Fund.  If we were able to raise an additional $125,000 for a total of $375,000, we would be able to endow two fellowships as well as contribute $125,000 to the Green Revolving Fund.

At our request, the college has agreed to invest the endowments in a fossil-free fund.


Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to humanity in our lifetimes.  As the Vox News article entitled “No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously“ [9] explains, signers of the Paris Climate Agreement understand that we have until around 2050 to reduce carbon emissions to below 2% of pre-industrial levels.  Even at these levels, the consequences will be and already are severe.  In the absence of achieving even that modest goal, the task shifts from reduction of emissions which we know how to do to pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and returning it to the earth – a monumentally difficult task with few proven techniques except planting trees.  It is incumbent upon institutions, large and small, to achieve emissions reduction targets in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement. In other words, we have to do this now.  Our planet is at stake.

Swarthmore is already a leader in advancing the concept of carbon pricing (see video) - one of the most powerful responses available to combat climate change.  As they say on their website:

“We believe that climate change poses the single greatest threat to human well being that we will face in our lifetimes, and many economists believe that widespread carbon pricing would make a massive difference in mitigating that threat.”[2] 

The College was recently recognized by the International Sustainable Campus Network for its work implementing an internal carbon price, [3] and for helping to mobilize college and university presidents to publicly endorse carbon pricing.

The Class of ‘68 50th Reunion Gift can support the Swarthmore’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and widen the community of people and institutions who understand and respond to the need for drastic reductions in carbon emissions.

By making our class gift to these initiatives, we will be the first class ever to dedicate our 50th Reunion Class Gift to supporting the Paris Climate Agreement.  And with this gift, we can set an example for 50th Reunion Class Gifts to follow and thus potentially multiply the effects of our gift many times over.     



1. “We are Still In - Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders.”


2.  President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF), Swarthmore College website, www.swarthmore.edu.

3.  Camila Domonoske, “So What Exactly Is In the Paris Climate Accord?”  National Public Radio:  The Two-Way, June 1, 2017.  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/01/531048986/so-what-exactly-is-in-the-paris-climate-accord.

4.  David Roberts.  “No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously - If we mean what we say, no more new fossil fuels, anywhere.” Vox.com.

Updated by David Roberts@drvoxdavid@vox.com  Apr 29, 2017.



[1] “Leaders in the U.S. Economy say, ‘We are Still In’ on Paris Climate agreement,” http://wearestillin.com/

[2] http://www.swarthmore.edu/sustainability/swarthmore-carbon-charge-initiative

[3] Supported by $300,000 approved by the Board of Managers, Swarthmore has begun adding a “carbon charge” to each department within the college which will begin to reflect the carbon emissions connected with that department’s use of heat, electricity, travel, waste management, and other such items. The “carbon charge” will go toward projects reducing Swarthmore’s carbon footprint.

[4] “Sustainability/History,” Swarthmore College, http://www.swarthmore.edu/sustainability/history

[5] “Sustainability/President’s Sustainability/Research/Fellowship, http://www.swarthmore.edu/sustainability/presidents-sustainability-research-fellowship

[6] President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship 2016-2017 Executive Summaries, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3ZuzvictwsVNjFEdzVISk5IWnlOcEg2TmdnMVp4VjFiWUk0/view

[7] An executive summary of the Energy Strategy for Sustainability and Resilience will be made available soon.


[8] President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship 2016-2017 Executive Summaries, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3ZuzvictwsVNjFEdzVISk5IWnlOcEg2TmdnMVp4VjFiWUk0/view

[9] David Roberts.  “No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously - If we mean what we say, no more new fossil fuels, anywhere.” Vox.com.

Updated by David Roberts@drvoxdavid@vox.com  Apr 29, 2017.