A $12M Gift to Make an Alma Mater the Next Big Green School

He’s an enthusiastic alumni donor. She’s an environmental activist. So George and Amanda Hanley made a $12.5 million gift to make the University of Dayton a leading sustainable school. But it’s not just about green buildings. 

The donation from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation will establish the Hanley Sustainability Institute, which extends the school’s sustainability efforts, but also weaves environmental education throughout its curriculum. The idea is to make the institute’s work integrated throughout the university, not just through environmental science and brick-and-mortar standards, but by teaching all majors how to pursue sustainability post-graduation.  

“It’s a call to action for the university as a whole to infuse our commitment to sustainability throughout everything we do,” President Daniel J. Curran told the Akron Beacon Journal

The institute’s initial programs will include an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in sustainability, an urban agriculture project with the Dayton community, a research fellowship, and a conference on sustainability learning. 

The Catholic university had already been pursuing sustainability efforts, which the school president sees as fitting within the Marianist tradition. The tenets of Marianist education include service and justice, as well as educating for adaptation and change. Officials said sustainability has become increasingly popular among incoming students. The Hanley gift will start a $25 million capital campaign for the center.

Related: How Did a School of Design Land $10M for Energy Policy Work?

The Hanleys have made donations to the University of Dayton over the years, but this is the largest in the school’s history, an interesting hybrid of the couple’s interests.  

George Hanley graduated from the university with a business degree in 1977, and serves as a trustee. He went on to be a successful high-speed trader, and in 2007, gave half a million to the university to establish the Hanley Trading Center

The enthusiasm for environmentalism comes from Amanda Hanley, who sits on a number of nonprofit boards, including as co-chair for the NRDC’s Midwest Council. She runs the environment blog wren (Winnetka Resident’s Eco Notes) and regularly blogs about environmental issues at the Huffington Post

The couple’s Hanley Foundation has been around since 1997, giving to the environment, education and human rights. The foundation’s environment program is most interested in climate change solutions, but also supports work on sustainable food systems and environmental literacy.

Aside from the UD donation, they’ve supported the Sierra Club, NRDC, Midwest group the Clean Energy Trust, and faith-based environment group Faith in Place. Read more about the foundation at its website.

Related: Walton's Unlikely Sustainability Grantee