ASU Alumni Association honors innovators in sustainability at Founders' Day event

Feb. 3, 2015/Tempe, Ariz.— The Arizona State University Alumni Association will honor alumni, faculty and alumni supporters who are innovators in sustainability at its annual Founders’ Day Awards Dinner, slated for 6 p.m., Thursday, March 5 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix.

The award ceremony has been a signature event for the university for decades, and honors individuals who exemplify the spirit of the founders of the Territorial Normal School of Arizona, ASU’s predecessor institution, which received its charter from the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature on March 7, 1885.  As part of the celebration, ASU President Michael M. Crow will provide a university update.

The following individuals will be honored by the Alumni Association at the Founders’ Day event.

Alumni Achievement Awards

Young Alumni Achievement Award – Ryan Delaney ’11 M.S.

Ryan Delaney, a 2011 graduate of ASU’s School of Sustainability, is being honored at Founders’ Day for his work as founder and co-director of Carbon Roots International (CRI), a company that uses sustainability principles to help rural farmers in Haiti develop more efficient agricultural practices.

Delaney collaborated with his co-founders to launch CRI in 2010. The company’s main purpose initially was to develop a viable model for the deployment of a sustainable soil amendment known as biochar in rural Haiti.  CRI ultimately expanded its organizational focus to include the production of a renewable fuel known as “green charcoal,” which allows farmers to convert crop waste into a fuel source with which people can cook.

In 2013, Delaney’s company formally launched an innovative, market-based social enterprise model in northern Haiti that addresses deforestation, energy security, rural poverty, and job scarcity.

Alumni Achievement Award – Rev. Jenny L. Norton ’93 B.S.

The Rev. Jenny L. Norton is being honored at Founders’ Day for her advocacy on behalf of sustainability and social justice issues, and for her concern with the impact of environmental challenges upon the most vulnerable populations within our society.

While serving as an Arizona state representative from District 27 in the 1980s, Norton co-sponsored legislation to mandate the use of clean fuels and to re-write the state’s energy policy. Norton completed her bachelor’s degree in justice studies at ASU in 1993, then completed a divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary.

At ASU, Norton has established five scholarship endowments, including four in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and one in the School of Sustainability. The scholarships assist undergraduate and graduate students interested in justice studies, religious studies, sustainability, and women/gender studies.

Norton and her spouse, Bob Ramsey, were key supporters of Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona building the first LEED-certified Habitat home in Glendale, Ariz. She is collaborating with ASU’s Rob and Melanie Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, Habitat for Humanity, and the city of Tempe on a current project that will create entire neighborhoods of sustainable, affordable houses in Tempe, as well as in a village in Guatemala.

Faculty Achievement Awards

Faculty Research Achievement Award

James Elser, Regents’ Professor and Parents Association Professor, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Distinguished sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

James Elser is being honored at Founders’ Day for his contributions to major transdisciplinary projects related to biogeochemistry, ecosystem dynamics, and nutrient limitation, with a special emphasis on phosphorus. Since arriving at ASU as a faculty member in 1990, he has been a pioneer in the integrative field of biological stoichiometry, which is the study of the balance of energy and multiple chemical elements in living systems, and has applied this theory primarily in limnology, which is the study of inland waters (lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams, wetlands, and groundwater).

He is the current president of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). He is the co-author of the highly regarded book, "Ecological Stoichiometry" and co-editor of the new book “Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future.”

He was integral in the 2011 founding of the Sustainable P Initiative at ASU. He is currently the principal investigator for the initiative’s Sustainable Phosphorus Research Coordination Network and a founding leader of the emerging North American Partnership for Phosphorus Sustainability.

He has been recognized for his research with two Fulbright Fellowships and with designation as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. In 2013, he was elected as a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters.

Faculty Service Achievement Award

Christopher Wharton ’06 Ph.D., associate professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, College of Health Solutions.
Director, Food Systems Transformation Initiative, and senior sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Christopher Wharton is being honored at Founders’ Day for his service work in the field of sustainability and nutrition. He is an expert in local food systems and food security and is the director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.  

Wharton’s research interests include developing innovative models that improve small and mid-sized farms’ financial viability, and studying the ways in which the local supply chain can offer increased healthy food access in “food deserts,” or locations in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.

 At ASU, he has performed numerous service activities, including acting as chair of the research seminar series for the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and participating in the school’s curriculum committee. He has been an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, having chaired the group’s hunger and environmental nutrition practice group and served on its board of directors. He has contributed chapters to two books: “Leisure, Health and Wellness: Making the Connections,” and “Obesity: A Multidisciplinary Approach to a Contemporary Global Issue.”

Wharton has been presented with numerous awards, including the 2013 ASU President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness and the 2011 ASU President’s Award for Sustainability. In 2012, he received the Conscious Local Living “Local Face” Award from The Fusion Foundation for his efforts to increase public access to locally grown healthy foods.

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

Chad Johnson, associate professor, School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Chad Johnson is being honored at Founders’ Day for his contributions to ASU and the local community as an outstanding teacher and mentor to students. He is praised in evaluations by former students as a caring, passionate and creative instructor, who is able to distill complex biological and ecological dynamics into clear, understandable concepts.

In his research, Johnson tracks animals through their life cycles, studying behavior in conjunction with ecological variations found in nature. His most recent research focuses on the study of behavior and population ecology/genetics of desert-versus-urban populations of black widow spiders native to Arizona. 

He has taught a variety of life-sciences courses – including animal behavior, fundamentals of ecology, and general biology – for the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, located in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus. He also has taught sustainability concepts to non-majors through a course entitled The Human Environment, and to honors students through a seminar entitled The Ecology of Human Disturbance. Johnson is a strong advocate of hands-on learning, and utilizes up to a half-dozen undergraduate student research collaborators in his laboratory each semester. Sharing his research and teaching expertise beyond the sphere of ASU, Johnson has developed a four-session curricular sequence that uses his research program with black widows to introduce middle school science students to scientific discovery.

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

Hallie Eakin, associate professor, School of Sustainability.
Senior sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Hallie Eakin is being honored at Founders’ Day for her innovative approach to instructing students in the School of Sustainability. She combines a dynamic lecture style in her classes with in-class discussions, peer-to-peer learning and community-based projects, as well as field trips to observe sustainability concepts and dynamics unfolding in their natural state. 

Eakin’s research seeks to understand the adaptability, resilience and sustainability of different social systems in the face of global environmental and socioeconomic change.

She actively promotes student involvement in her international and local research activities, and draws from her international research experiences to expand students’ horizons in her teaching. She is the author of the book “Weathering Risk in Rural Mexico: Climatic, Economic and Institutional Change,” as well as numerous articles on related topics.

Eakin has taught a range of courses on sustainability at ASU, including the undergraduate course Sustainable Food and Farms and graduate seminars in Food System Sustainability and Adaptation, Resilience and Transformation.  She also coordinates project-based learning courses in which students design and implement collaborative projects in collaboration with elements of the Phoenix community.

Eakin has drawn from her teaching experience in sustainability science to support curriculum development. She was instrumental in the development of an undergraduate certificate in food systems sustainability at ASU.

The Philanthropists of the Year Award, presented by the ASU Foundation For A New American University

Rob and Melani Walton

Rob and Melani Walton are being honored for their exemplary support and dedication to creativity, innovation and engaged practice to create a more sustainable world through their philanthropy and corporate leadership.

Rob is chairman of the board of directors of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, serves Conservation International as chairman of its executive committee, and is co-chair of the board of directors for Sustainability at Arizona State University. Melani drives impact and engagement across the Phoenix region as co-chair for ASU Women and Philanthropy, and as a board member for the Arizona Science Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Arizona Women’s Board, and the Phoenix Symphony.

The Waltons’ current engagement with ASU helped the university extend its expertise in sustainability outside the bounds of academia by establishing the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, designed to develop scalable solutions to global economic, social and environmental challenges.                                                                                 

Tickets to the Founders’ Day event are $150 for Alumni Association members and $200 for nonmembers. Table and corporate sponsorship opportunities are available. For additional information about Founders’ Day, or to RSVP, visit asu.edu/foundersday.