Belmont environmental science program gets $3.5 million boost as Bob and Judy Fisher honor late son with new endowments

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NASHVILLE, TN (TN Tribune)– In honor of the global celebration of Earth Day 2021, Belmont University announced the creation of two Rob Fisher Endowment Funds for Environmental Science. One fund will be used entirely to support scholarships for students in the University’s environmental science program, while the second will create a new faculty chair in environmental science as well as research opportunities and experiential learning. These funds, which collectively total more than $3.5 million, were made possible by a recent donation from outgoing Belmont Chairman Dr. Bob Fisher and his wife Judy Fisher, as they seek to honor their late son Rob, a nature and conservation advocate who passed away five years ago.

Belmont Provost, Dr. Thomas Burns, said, “These new endowments promise even stronger educational opportunities for our students and will establish Belmont as a leader in the field of environmental science. It comes as no surprise to me or anyone else on this campus that this gift comes from the generosity of Bob and Judy Fisher, who have consistently demonstrated their commitment to students and their dedication to being caring stewards of God’s creation.

The scholarship fund currently stands at approximately $1.5 million, while the endowment to support a professorship is $2 million. Belmont’s assistant professor, Dr. Matthew Heard, who serves as coordinator of the environmental sciences program, was chosen as the inaugural holder of the chair of environmental sciences.

Dr Bob Fisher, who is retiring at the end of May, said: “Judy and I are so thrilled that Dr Heard has taken on this role. We both had the chance to observe his work during his time at Belmont, and his scholarship is outstanding. But what stands out the most to us is how it engages students in activities outside of the classroom. It is this kind of experience that provides the spark that will ignite the ingrained passions that some of our students have about our natural environment. We speak on behalf of Rob’s sisters, Jennifer and Kelly, and our entire family when we say we know Rob is celebrating this announcement with us! »

Rob Fisher has spent his career protecting and enhancing natural resources in his home state of Arkansas and around the world as executive director and co-founder of the Ecological Conservation Organization (ECO). Prior to founding ECO, Rob worked for American Rivers, Arkansas Audubon and the National Wildlife Federation. With these and other organizations, he has approached his passion for conservation in a variety of ways, from leading state and federal environmental policy programs to developing wetland restoration projects to expanding conservation initiatives. ‘education.

His passion was inherited from his parents, longtime supporters of the environment and conservation efforts, who established Belmont Conservation Pact in 2015 to model for Belmont students and the wider community the imperative to care for God’s creation. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Fisher participated in the first Earth Day events and since then he has passionately promoted environmental stewardship. Thanks to its Belmont management:
  • Serves as arboretum keep more than 100 species of trees and shrubs and carefully manages water use for irrigation.
  • Constructs new buildings to LEED-certified standards, including the only LEED-platinum new construction of any university in Tennessee
  • Built several green roofs totaling 55,650 square feet of natural habitat created four to five stories above ground, providing shelter for native plant species as well as the wildlife they support, including hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, pigeon hawks, and honey bees. (Fisher himself manages the hives.)
  • uses geothermal energy and other innovative systems to heat and cool parts of the campus
  • Create more 4,200 underground parking spaces under buildings, limiting the architectural footprint of campus growth while preserving natural environments
  • Solar Array installed on Curb Event Center Arena which generates 245KwHrs reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 223 metric tons
  • Has received numerous awards for his conservation efforts, including Governor’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, Trane Energy Efficiency Leader Award and one Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Dr. Heard, a Belmont faculty member since 2017, received two recent grants from the National Science Foundation aimed at helping students engage in field research in remote settings during the COVID-19 pandemic and to integrate environmental data into undergraduate education. and research programs. Her work is frequently published in peer-reviewed journals and conservation magazines. He also serves on the board of the Association of Southeastern Biologists and the Ecological Research as Education Network. Heard holds an undergraduate degree in ecology and French from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. from Brown University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“Being asked to take on the position of Rob Fisher Endowed Chair is a humbling and exciting opportunity,” said Heard. “I am so grateful to be able to honor the legacy of Rob and the entire Fisher family, who have always been committed to helping Belmont students see the value in the environment and to give back to their community. This award is also a transformative opportunity that will help develop new programs, expand experiential education and service-learning opportunities in Nashville and beyond, and enable the pursuit of exciting interdisciplinary research. In short, this endowment will help create an exciting new chapter for environmental science at Belmont.

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