Tuesday April 3, 2018

Sustainability Leader

Ben McCall, lead architect of a new model for campus sustainability who helped the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign become one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation, will become the first executive director of the University of Dayton's Hanley Sustainability Institute. His appointment starts Aug. 16.

McCall is a professor of chemistry, astronomy and physics and a professor in UIUC's Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment. He served as the institute's first associate director for campus sustainability and later as the institute's assistant director for special projects.

He spearheaded the 2015 update of the Illinois Climate Action Plan and developed a new procedure for formulating and evaluating campus sustainability policies and initiatives, which he presented at an annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

"Ben has deep professional and personal commitments to sustainability and to the Hanley Sustainability Institute's mission, which touches upon interdisciplinary scholarship, holistic education, innovative campus planning and collaborative community-based partnerships," said Paul Benson, University of Dayton provost. "He appreciates the distinctive strengths UD can bring to sustainability education and research at the national level, and the deep roots the Hanley Sustainability Institute has in the University's Catholic and Marianist mission."

Also at Illinois, McCall helped develop a project to verify carbon credits from campus emission reductions, raising nearly $1.5 million for campus sustainability efforts; coordinated design of and fundraising for a biomass boiler system; advocated for the first wind power purchase agreement for the campus; and facilitated the initiation of a student-led program to convert used cooking oil from dining halls into biodiesel for the campus transportation fleet and "biosoap" for dining services.

UIUC is just one of 129 colleges and universities to achieve a platinum or gold rating from AASHE and is frequently rated among the top 10 performers in the categories such as buildings and water.

"At UD, I intend to build on the strong progress the Hanley Sustainability Institute already has made toward deepening campuswide partnerships and infusing sustainability throughout the curriculum," said McCall, who also will serve as a professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Dayton. "I'd also like to include more undergraduates in all aspects of sustainability, promote transdisciplinary sustainability scholarship, work with facilities management and other stakeholders to develop an actionable plan to eliminate the University's carbon footprint, and leverage the strength of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community to engage community partners in developing a comprehensive plan to improve sustainability and resilience in the Dayton community."

McCall started in higher education as a chemist and astrophysicist but made a transition to sustainability when he began to recognize that "humanity is pushing up against, and in many ways exceeding, the limits of our finite planet, and we have an ethical obligation to preserve a healthy ecosystem for future generations and for other species."

McCall brings a wealth of academic experience to the University, said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which currently houses the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

"Ben has supervised nearly 70 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral researchers; presented at 34 conferences; and been an author on almost 100 published articles," Pierce said. "He's also a grant and peer reviewer for organizations and publications such as the National Science Foundation, NASA, Science and Nature."

A fellow of the Optical Society of America and the American Physical Society, McCall earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology; his master's in chemistry and doctorate in chemistry, astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago; and was a postdoctoral Miller Fellow in chemistry and astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Ben has steadily climbed the ladder in sustainability in higher education, from the campus operations committee of the UIUC academic senate to helping Illinois reach the upper echelon of sustainable campuses nationwide," said Don Pair, College of Arts and Sciences associate dean for interdisciplinary research and experiential initiatives, and acting head of the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

The University of Dayton established the Hanley Sustainability Institute in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from the foundation of George Hanley '77 and Amanda Hanley. With the gift, the single-largest in University history, the Hanleys challenged the University to become a national leader for innovation in sustainability. Since the institute's launch, students have been involved in every aspect of its operation — from staffing and administration to project conception and execution — in keeping with its educational mission.

"I'm confident Provost Benson, Dean Pierce, Associate Dean Don Pair, HSI Director of Research Bob Brecha and the rest of the committee have found a good leader, and Ben will help the institute get where we want to be," George Hanley said. "Amanda and I already have talked to Ben and we like what we hear regarding his vision for the institute."

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.

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