April 14, 2003

Wegner named campus environmental officer

By Michael Terrazas

Call him a “CEO” of a different sort. John Wegner, senior lecturer in environmental studies, has been appointed by President Bill Chace as Emory’s first campus environmental officer, effective May 1.

The appointment is a direct response to a report issued to Chace by a task force charged with making recommendations to implement the University’s Environmental Mission Statement, which was endorsed by the University Senate in spring 2001. One of the task force’s action items was the appointment of an individual who would be responsible for coordinating all activities that fall under the rubric of environmentalism and sustainability on campus.

“In keeping with the more general Emory model of how we do business, this will be a cooperative effort,” said Wegner, who added that his role will be to coordinate and facilitate the University’s “green” efforts rather than supervise them. Wegner will report to Bob Hascall, senior associate vice president for Facilities Management (FM).

“Over the last several years John has worked tirelessly with me and my staff in our campus planning and project management areas to raise environmental awareness and help make each of our new buildings and major renovations more environmentally sustainable,” Hascall said. “I look forward to having him join our organization and assisting him as he assumes this important new role for the University.”

As Hascall alluded, though Wegner now is “joining” FM as a full-time employee, he has served for some time as a consultant to various departments in the division. Wegner also will maintain his appointment in environmental studies, though his teaching load will be reduced significantly to perhaps two courses each year.

“My previous work gives me a firm footing to start with, but the mandate for this position goes beyond FM and extends to academic affairs, operations, volunteer groups and community relations,” Wegner said. He will consult with such organizations as the Alternative Transportation Program (located within Community Services); the Department of Environmental Health and Safety in the Rollins School of Public Health; FM equivalents in Emory Healthcare, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and other Emory-affiliated institutions; and existing campus environmental groups such as the Senate’s Committee on the Environment, the Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Stewardship, Friends of Emory Forest and others.

“The simple fact of the matter, and one in which we should all take delight, is that no one at Emory knows the natural environment of the campus better,” said Chace of Wegner, who already is an active member of many of the aforementioned groups. “He passionately cares for it, and no one could serve it more vigilantly than John as its steward.”

Wegner likely will encounter a community highly receptive to his duties, as Emory has launched a number of environmentally conscious efforts in recent years, from FM’s dedication to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design principles to the success of Emory Recycles, to alternative transportation and to more grass-roots efforts like the Ad Hoc Committee—and even the effort that resulted in the Environmental Mission Statement itself, which is available online at www.environment.emory.edu/who/mission.shtml.

“The goal of the creation of this office is to implement the general principles of [that statement],” Wegner said. “The statement gives you a general outline of the areas we’re looking to address.”

Finally, the fact the University chose to devote resources to this issue in times of significant fiscal constraint speaks well of Emory’s commitment to environmentalism.

“I was pleasantly surprised [by the decision],” Wegner said. “I know Bill Chace has an environmental commitment, as does Bob Hascall, but it was not entirely certain this would be possible given the current economic conditions. However, what came out of the deliberations of the environmental task force was the realization that coordination of environmental endeavors could make more effective use of our resources.”