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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

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Barrons' gift to support work that connects environment and humanities

A gift from Currie and Thomas A. Barron, a 1974 alumnus, offers new support for work at the intersection of environmental issues and the humanities at Princeton University. The Barrons have given $4.5 million to the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) to establish an endowed professorship, a fund to support academic innovations and a student prize.

"This gift will enable Princeton to expand its academic initiatives by building crucial intellectual bridges between the humanities and environmental studies," said President Shirley M. Tilghman. "We are very grateful to the Barrons for their confidence in the University and its mission and for their deep commitment to the environmental well-being of our planet."

The Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Professorship in Humanities and the Environment will be the first endowed chair at Princeton specifically designed for a scholar whose work bridges environmental issues and the humanities.

The Barron Family Fund for Innovations in Environmental Studies will support projects that enrich the curriculum by making connections between humanities and the environment, through field work and independent work by students or faculty members and development of new courses.

The T.A. Barron Prize for Environmental Leadership will be awarded annually to a student who exhibits exceptional devotion to environmental issues in any field. "The key concept here is leadership," Barron said. "This planet of ours needs people who can inspire others in all areas of environmental concern, both in academics and in the wider world."

A charter trustee and former alumni trustee of the University, Barron serves on PEI's advisory board. He has been closely involved with PEI since its inception, having made his first gift to the institute in 1990. Since then, the Barrons have supported environmental studies at Princeton by endowing the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professorship in the Environment and Humanities, and the Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies.

"When I look at the impressive array of scholars we now have in environmental studies, I feel enormously proud of Princeton," Barron said. "I'm delighted by PEI's progress on the fronts where it has already grown -- in science, public policy and engineering. I hope this gift will enable Princeton to engage more humanities students in environmental studies as well."

Barron credits the blossoming of environmental studies at Princeton to the strong leadership of Tilghman and her predecessor, President Harold T. Shapiro, and to PEI Director Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

"They are taking Princeton's longstanding commitment to excellence and applying it to environmental issues," Barron said. "PEI has already become a world-class leader in this area, and we've only seen the beginning of what Princeton can accomplish."

A politics major with a concentration in history, Barron received the Pyne Prize, the University's highest undergraduate honor, and was named a Rhodes Scholar. After earning JD and MBA degrees at Harvard University and building a successful business in New York, he returned to his home in the West to become a full-time writer and conservationist. His many novels and nonfiction writing, which display a passion for nature and a deep concern for humanity and the Earth, have won many honors, and he has received the Wilderness Society's highest citizen award for conservation work.

Barron has been a long-term supporter of Annual Giving to Princeton. The latest gift is part of the University's current $1.75 billion fundraising campaign, "Aspire: A Plan for Princeton."

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