An hour and a half before guests were due to arrive, drizzle turned to rain and Eden Hall Campus (EHC) sprang quietly into action:
- Gravel pathways made it easy for water to sink into the earth, rather than run off, as would happen with concrete.
- The rainwater harvesting system collected the rain, cleaned it, and rerouted it for use for irrigation and other non-potable duties.
- Raingardens filled with native plants soaked it all in.
- Crops that will feed Eden Hall community members were watered.
Impressive as that might sound, EHC does so much more than deal intelligently with stormwater, and the completion of the first phase of building that makes it all possible is only one of the reasons that 250 people have ventured into this gray morning on April 28 to gather here in celebration.
As guests arrived, shaking off umbrellas and marveling at what was for many their first look at the new Commons building, there was an excitement in the air that even the prospect of an Eden Hall-sourced lunch did little to quell.
The opening remarks and the lunch
In nature, nothing exists alone, begins the donor wall in the entranceway of the new building. This quote from Chatham alumna Rachel Carson pinpoints a sense of shared experience that President Esther Barazzone echoed in her opening remarks. “This is an absolute thrill for all of us to see so many of you taking part in our first communal meal here.”
Esther was followed by Sigo Falk, chair of the erstwhile Falk Foundation and Chatham Board member since 1981, who noted the multiple dimensions of sustainability, including social justice. Then lunch was served, family-style, and guests feasted on Arugula and Pickled and Roasted Beet Salad with Honey Beet Vinaigrette and Popcorn Croutons; Apple Whiskey Glazed Pork and Rye Berry Pilaf; and Braised Rainbow Chard and Kale, all grown at Eden Hall or sourced from Hatfield Meats or Wigle Whiskey.
After lunch, guests heard from Richland Township Manager Dean Bastianini, State Representative Hal English, and Director of the Southwest Regional Office of the Governor Erin Molchany.
Eden Hall Campus is not only a model for sustainable design and net-zero mission nationally, but is also is the world’s first sustainable college campus. We love firsts, here in Pennsylvania. Especially firsts that put us on the global map. And we will continue to hold up Eden Hall Campus and the Commons Center as an example of what we can accomplish together.”
– Erin Molchany
The Commons Dedication segment of the afternoon began with remarks from David Goldberg from Eden Hall architectural partner Mithūn. “I’m honored to have collaborated with Chatham Board of Trustees and the Chatham leadership team,” he said. “Esther—your vision and commitment to the project are just unmatched by anything we’ve ever seen.”
Next, Jennifer Potter, Chair of the Chatham Board of Trustees told us that “bold vision, strong leadership, and an embrace of doing big things in a short amount of time have been the hallmarks of Esther’s presidency.” She declared it a great honor to read the resolution at hand, and exhorted guests to “bear with me, this is when I do all the ‘whereas’s’.”
Five whereas’s later: “Therefore, be it now resolved that the Board of Trustees approves dedicating the Commons at Eden Hall as the Esther Barazzone Center at Eden Hall Campus.” The room rose to its feet, applauding. In a voice brimming with emotion, Esther thanked the Board.
This honor means the world to me. This Board has led me, and given me the privilege of saying that I helped lead them.”
– Esther Barazzone
She also thanked Chatham’s community partners, Richland, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And finally, “Thank you especially to the faculty, the students and the others who work at Chatham. You are, of course, the heart, the soul, and the reason why we do these things. May you learn joyously here. ”
The keynote speaker
Next, Falk School Dean Peter Walker introduced keynote speaker Barton Seaver—a young and charismatic sustainability-focused seafood chef turned academic and activist, who gave a dynamic and thought-provoking talk, beginning with the summers he spent as a child by the Chesapeake Bay.
“Every morning at the crack of dawn, I was down by the docks, gathering bluefish, blue crabs, spots, skate,” he said. “There was bounty in those waters, and that’s how I understood the world to be. Then later, when I opened my own restaurant and got to write my own menu, I was inspired by that time. I said ‘All right, let’s get bluefish, blue crabs, oysters…’ and my suppliers said ‘Kid, what are you talking about? We ate all those. What else do you want?’”
Seaver says that it was at that point that he realized that if we have the power to harm the oceans (and fish from the ocean have the power to harm us, through mercury levels), the flip side is that we can also use seafood to heal, and that we can restore the ocean’s systems. He sees it as a turning point in how he began to view sustainability—from a vantage point of guilt to a vantage point of opportunity.
“In the U.S., we eat over 175 lbs per person per year of meat, compared to roughly 14 lbs per person per year of seafood,” said Seaver, calling the meager amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diets of women of childbearing years in the U.S. “an epidemic.”
Seaver thinks deeply about messages of sustainability, how they’re delivered, and how those deliveries might improve. “I talk to people and then use their own words to explain why the oceans are important,” he said. “The word ‘environment’ practically never came up. Instead we talked about economics. Jobs. Culture, heritage, health.”
All too often what we hear is ‘Save the oceans!’ We’re not trying to save the oceans; we’re trying to save our reality around those oceans. We’re trying to save dinner. Frankly speaking, we’re trying to save ourselves.” – Barton Seaver
Following Seaver’s address, guests broke for coffee, champagne, and Eden Hall Global Cow cookies (you had to be there). Guests were encouraged to roam about the Commons, where signs and staff members were positioned to provide information, and to join small group tours that that left from the Commons.
“Sustainability begins in our hearts and minds,” concluded Seaver’s address. “And fortunately, our hearts and minds have found a loving home”—he gestured around at the Esther Barazzone Center—“here.”