In 1891, James Francis Morton (Proctor’s Head of School at the time) built the first trail network behind Proctor’s campus. In 1936, Roland Burbank started an Improvement Squad to conduct gardening, forestry, and maintenance projects on campus and throughout woodlands during the Great Depression. The next year, Burbank founded the Cabin Club and a decade after that the Forest Fire Fighters Club. Soon after an Outing Club and Fishing and Hunting Club were launched. Proctor’s commitment to environmental stewardship began long before the school joined the progressive environmental movement to celebrate Earth Day for the first time in 1970.
Every year since, we have celebrated Earth Day by pausing our regular academic schedule for a day of service and connection to the natural world. Even though the rest of the world celebrated Earth Day in April, today was our Earth Day.
Our Environmental Mission Statement adopted in 2008 by the Board of Trustees guides our application of environmental awareness in core curricula, endowment investment, energy efficiency projects, and institutional choices. These public, macro-level decisions are important, but so are the micro-level actions of our community: our dining services team seeking local food options, teachers finding ways to expose students to real-world environmental challenges, and Environmental Coordinator and Science Department Chair Alan McIntyre organizing our annual Earth Day workshops.
In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven delivered a commencement speech to the graduates of the University of Texas in which he described ten lessons from the Navy that can be used to change the world. The first states: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." Completing small, seemingly insignificant positive acts results in a feeling of pride that can encourage further small actions. These acts build upon each other as you work toward completing otherwise daunting tasks.
Today, faculty sponsored workshops on and off-campus employing Admiral McRaven’s simple piece of advice. As students cleaned trails, hiked over Ragged Mountain, learned about local fisheries, used art to explore the natural world, and studied the health of the Proctor Pond, they gained awareness of their surroundings and their personal impact.
Education is a long-run game. While we see growth in our students from the time they step foot on campus for Wilderness Orientation until the moment they walk across the stage at Commencement, we recognize the true impact of a Proctor education does not take root until long after students move on from Proctor. Our hope is that days like today leave an impact on our students, helping them feel empowered to “make their bed” when opportunities to affect change present themselves, regardless of how big or small those opportunities may be.
- Environmental Stewardship