David Blittersdorf, president of AllEarth Renewables Inc., a Williston-based solar power equipment producer, has donated $1 million to the University of Vermont. The gift is to be used to hire a professor at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources which specializes in renewable energy production.
The purpose of the donation, Blittersdorf said, is to encourage the university to play an active role in developing renewable energy in the state.
“They are a player in Vermont, they should do more in the state,” Blittersdorf said. “That’s what I am promoting.”
He said he hopes the university will use the money to earn its environmentally conscious reputation.
“I just want them to recapture that tagline they put out there,” Blittersdorf said. “Let’s walk the talk.”
Blittersdorf requested that his endowment be kept in a separate account that could not later be invested in fossil fuel energy companies. By divesting from fossil fuel companies and supporting a renewable energy curriculum, he said, the university will hold true to its stated mission as a green institution.
Richard Cate, vice president for finance at UVM, said in an email that the money from Blittersdorf’s gift will not be invested in the university’s pooled endowment fund, where the majority of its endowed funds are invested.
The university has established separate small endowments at the request of donors, he wrote. This is because donors often specify how they want their money to be spent.
Close to 10 percent of the university’s endowments are invested in fossil fuels, Cate wrote. The majority of these investments are in funds that include energy companies, but not necessarily direct investments in fossil fuel energy companies, he wrote.
Blittersdorf graduated from UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences in 1981. As part of his gift to the Rubenstein School, he specified that the new professor must be work across the university’s disciplines.
“I want people to collaborate more and get the big picture right instead of going into their little silos and do their work there,” he said.
The request complements the university’s goal to support collaborative research, established through the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative, said Jay Goyette, associate director of communications for the University of Vermont Foundation.
The foundation, which is designed to secure private donations and support from alumni, receives several gifts for professorships annually, Goyette said. These gifts must meet a minimum threshold of $1 million, he said.
Due to a decline in revenue from out-of-state students, who pay a higher tuition fee than in-state students, and moderate state appropriated funds in recent years, the university has been raising more money from private donations.
“Private fundraising is going to be critical for the University of Vermont to grow and prosper,” Goyette said. “We simply have to have a strong donor base going forward.”
The university accepts a range of donation amounts to support new faculty positions. For example, a donation of $250,000 establishes a Green & Gold Professor faculty position and a $3 million gift establishes a department chair, both of which are usually named after the donor.
Goyette said the foundation is encouraging donors to make up the difference of $750,000 to elevate Green & Gold Professor positions into full professorships.
The surgical faculty at the university’s College of Medicine and Fletcher Allen Health Care set aside money in recent years to provide a $4.5 million gift to fund 14 Green & Gold Professor positions in the Department of Surgery, Goyette said.