Gift endows chair in sustainable development at Clemson

Staff Report
Published Oct. 21, 2010

A Clemson alumnus and his wife have made a $2 million gift to endow a chair in sustainable development at Clemson University.

The donation by Tom Hash and wife Becky, a Furman alumna, will create the first endowed chair in Clemson’s Sustainable Development Center of Economic Excellence, established this year to develop new technologies to foster sustainability, protect the state’s natural resources and encourage smart growth.

“This is not just a well-considered and much-appreciated gift to Clemson University, it is also a very forward-thinking investment in all our futures,” said Clemson President James Barker. “Tom and Becky Hash have a keen personal interest in environmental sustainability and in seeing that future generations will continue to enjoy the benefits of a natural world that has been intelligently and sensitively developed. Their generosity will have a lasting legacy.”

Research in sustainable development focuses on areas in which the “natural and built environments” meet, said Gene Eidson, professor of biological sciences and the principal investigator for the new center. The result of the research will be tools, products and services to better monitor, manage and protect the environment while allowing for continued economic growth and development, he said.

The Hash endowment will permanently fund a faculty position in Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science, although the center resides in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The very nature of this field requires an interdisciplinary approach and close cooperation,” Eidson said. “To pull together the right people to address the very complex problems of environmental sustainability will take a number of faculty from diverse backgrounds. The only way to make that approach work is to have people in different colleges work together, and that is something we have to build in from the start.”

The Clemson chair is not the Hashes’ first investment in the field of sustainability. The couple has also contributed to the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman.

“Tom got interested in sustainability through his job and started becoming involved at Clemson. Then we heard about Furman’s program and decided we could have an impact in both places,” Becky Hash said. “In addition to wanting to give back to our universities, we felt that sustainability was important to future generations and our own children and grandchildren.”

As a Center of Economic Excellence, the sustainable research program is awarded state funding that must be matched with non-state funds. The CoEE program was established by the S.C. General Assembly in 2002 and is funded through proceeds from the S.C. Education Lottery.

“I would like to see the center grow and include more endowed chairs,” Tom Hash said. “A single chair is just a start. To bloom into a meaningful center, you need multiple endowed chairs. CU-ICAR (the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research) is an example. You see what kind of impact can be made when you have the benefit of a significant team working together.

“We have a very high level of confidence in the leadership at Clemson and believe that they will do good things with the gifts they receive. You can throw money at things and get no results, but we felt that an investment in Clemson would pay dividends. Jim Barker’s leadership has been amazing. Because of this, I am certain our gifts achieve results.”

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Comments:

Added: 1 Nov 2010

Wonderful program opportunity. Hope to see SC benefiting at some point from development of applied tools in this broadly ranging subject. Sustainable should be considered a transition to regenerative. For example, were Cambrian blue-green algae merely sustainble we'd still be suspended in the water column. Probably the best example of an interdisciplinary sustainable-to-regenerative application can be found in the Transition Town concept. Begun in the UK, discreet townships begin the process of re-skilling and centralizing commerce to build resilience in recoginition of challenges presented by Peak Oil and Climate Chaos. Was the Hash's new endowment framing "growth" in the conventional sense, or not? At this point, it would be a new day for academia were research focused on alternative prosperity without growth. Upon hearing the oximoronic pairing of growth with sustainable, many of us raise our hands to our mouths and snicker quietly. One must find humor as sanctioned research remains years out of touch with the critical reframing of what is "important to future generations."

Michael Juras