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Vermont Quarterly

Gund Gift Elevates Interdisciplinary Research

the Gund family


Gund Gift Elevates Interdisciplinary Research

PHILANTHROPY | A $6 million gift from the Gund family—with a challenge to raise even more from other donors—will create the University of Vermont’s first university-wide environmental institute.

Designed to catalyze interdisciplinary research at UVM, the new initiative also will connect scholars with government, business, and societal leaders to address urgent sustainability issues around the globe.

The Gund Institute for Environment at UVM will be headquartered in Johnson House on Main Street, replacing—and greatly enlarging the scope of—the internationally-renowned Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, which the Gund family established in 2002.

“The University of Vermont is recognized worldwide as a true leader in environmental scholarship, from the nation’s first environmental studies program to our pioneering research on acid rain, lake health, and nature’s true economic value,” said UVM President Tom Sullivan in announcing the gift.

“The Gund Institute for Environment brings the entire campus together to leverage these core strengths to accelerate research and solve the urgent environmental challenges facing Vermont, our nation, and our world," Sullivan added. "I am delighted that after five years of careful and fruitful discussions and planning by a large number of people the Gund Institute soon will be a shining reality and model for other institutions."

This extraordinary gift to UVM comes from Gordon Gund (UVM honorary degree ’95) and his wife, Llura (Lulie, UVM honorary degree ’95) of Princeton, New Jersey; Grant Gund ’91 and his wife, Lara, of Weston, Massachusetts; and Zachary Gund ’93 and his wife, Lindsey, of Concord, Massachusetts. Grant Gund serves on the UVM Foundation Leadership Council, and his brother Zack Gund is a member of the UVM Foundation Board of Directors.

To inspire further philanthropic support from other donors who also are passionate about building a sustainable future for the planet, the Gunds have committed to providing an additional gift of $4 million when UVM raises $8 million for the Gund Institute for Environment. The total goal for philanthropic support is $20 million.

Philanthropy is a fundamental principle for the Gund family. Including this latest $6 million gift, the Gund family has supported priorities at UVM including environmental economics and sustainability, liberal arts and teaching, the Fleming Museum of Art, scholarship and athletics.

Despite losing his eyesight at an early age, Gordon Gund—the CEO of Gund Investment Corporation and a former owner of the San Jose Sharks and the Cleveland Cavaliers—loved to head outside with his sons, Grant and Zack, and his wife, Lulie, to lead family hikes in the woods near their home and take the boys fishing in rivers and oceans around the world. Time spent together in nature instilled in the brothers a strong interest in preserving a sustainable future for the planet.

Founders and managing partners of Coppermine Capital, a private investment firm outside Boston, Grant and Zack’s shared passion for the environment was enhanced during their undergraduate days at UVM.

“The physical beauty not only of the campus but also the mountains, streams and lakes of Vermont make UVM the perfect setting for an environmentally-focused center of excellence,” said Grant Gund. “Conservation of the environment is closely intertwined with economic viability, and our greatest chance for a sustainable future is to gather a diverse group of incredibly smart people to find lasting solutions. That’s the new Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont.”

Designed to address an evolving set of global environmental challenges, the Gund Institute for Environment will harness UVM’s strategic strengths and priorities to help address urgent issues highlighted in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The UN’s goals range from climate change and renewable energy to world hunger and water security. As a land-grant university, protecting the environment is at UVM’s core, with students and faculty benefiting from and contributing to the significant breadth in environmental research, teaching, and outreach.

“The new institute, drawing on interdisciplinary expertise from every corner of the campus, will propel UVM into one of the most exciting, rewarding, and productive places to research and promote environmental action and sustainability,” said UVM Provost David Rosowsky, who for years gave leadership support and keen advice to the faculty-led effort to envision the new institute.

“Satisfying human needs without destroying nature is our generation’s defining challenge,” said Taylor Ricketts, the founding director of the Gund Institute for Environment at UVM and the Gund Professor at UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “These issues are complex and span traditional disciplines. To solve them, we need solutions that are as cross-cutting as the issues themselves. That needs collaboration; it needs all of us.” 

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