Intersection of environmental justice and engineering the focus of new $2.5M endowed professorship

Michigan Engineering

Climate change, while a global threat, will disproportionately affect some of society’s most vulnerable populations – a problem engineers tackling the issue must keep front and center. A new $2.5 million gift from the NorthLight Foundation and Dan and Sheryl Tishman aims to do just that.

In line with Michigan Engineering’s equity-centered engineering approach, the new Tishman Professorship in Environmental Justice in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will help attract and retain leading faculty with environmental justice expertise to facilitate collaborative research in sustainability and the environment. The professorship is part of an $11.125 million gift to the University of Michigan to establish the Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment, which will include the Tishman Scholarship Fund and a second professorship at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). The gift is the largest in SEAS’ history, and it will help address the growing urgency and demand for environmental justice expertise and professionals.

“We need to be equity-centered in our solutions, acknowledging and correcting for who benefits and who is harmed,” said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering,  the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor of aerospace engineering. “This gift will give SEAS and Engineering greater capacity to collaborate and work in partnership with communities and their leaders to ensure solutions are developed with them – and truly work for them.”

Through their NorthLight Foundation, the Tishmans make investments at the “intersection of human and environmental landscapes and work with organizations to deliver high impact and systemic change.” The family has a multi-generational legacy at U-M: Dan’s late father, John, and their son, Gabe, are both U-M alumni. As longtime supporters of the university, Dan, Sheryl, and John’s combined charitable gifts, which include donations to Michigan Engineering, Michigan Athletics, and this most recent commitment, will total more than $25 million.

“As environmental funders, for decades we have discovered that frontline communities have been largely left behind by the environmental movement,” said Dan and Sheryl Tishman. “These communities have very little voice in the battle for a clean environment and climate change, but sadly have been the most impacted. It is our mission to invest our philanthropy in places where there is a great need and little investment. Environmental justice is at the heart of solving the greatest environmental challenges of the day.”

“We are grateful to the Tishmans for their incredibly meaningful gift, which will help SEAS, Engineering, and the University of Michigan expand our work to ensure that justice and equity are at the core of the transition to a more environmentally sound and sustainable low-carbon world,” said Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, the Samuel A. Graham Dean and William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor of Environmental Education at SEAS.

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