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March 15, 2005 - Aquinas College announced today at its meeting of the College Board of Trustees that its two-year-old Sustainable Business Program is the recipient of a $1 million gift from the Steelcase Foundation.

"Shared common values and a concern for the environment are two reasons the gift is a good match," said Susan Broman, executive director of the Steelcase Foundation. "The Foundation is a strong supporter of education as well as environmental work, so it's a great combination."

Aquinas' first-of-its-kind program was designed to respond to the demand for formally-trained sustainable business professionals in what has become a rapidly-developing field.

Sustainable business practices involve an entirely different set of strategies designed to increase profits, eliminate adverse environmental impacts and improve the long-term sustainability of participating businesses and their communities.

President Harry Knopke describes the gift as a reaffirmation of the importance of the interdisciplinary program.

"The Steelcase Foundation is nationally known for the care with which it makes grants and gifts," Knopke said. Therefore, he said, this gift for one of the College's signature programs "provides substantial external recognition and endorsement of our efforts here."

The Steelcase Foundation gift will have a positive impact on the Sustainable Business Program in several areas. The program will provide more career development opportunities for students as well as provide professional development opportunities for area business professionals. As important, through the proposed Center for Sustainable Business that will be created this spring, the program will build awareness and encourage more businesses to develop sustainable business practices by providing access to the latest research and practices in the field.

Additionally, funding from the gift, which will be paid over five years, will allow the new sustainable business department to expand its library collection, add another full-time sustainable business faculty member with science expertise, expand curricular offerings on an accelerated timetable and open the Center for Sustainable Business.

Matthew Tueth, Ph.D., who has been coordinator of the sustainable business program since its inception in 2003, has been named the Steelcase Foundation Professor of Sustainable Business. In his new enhanced role, Tueth will continue developing the program that blends business, physical science and environmental science

The appointment, which is a result of the Steelcase Foundation gift, "validates what we're doing here," Tueth said. "It's nice to have recognition from my president and provost for what we've done."

The holder of the position will be the effective chair of a new department," said Ed Balog, provost. In addition to teaching, Tueth will be responsible for research in the field, developing a textbook and developing the program both within and outside the Aquinas community. "There's an off-campus responsibility to it, which is not standard with most faculty appointments," Balog commented.

Currently, students can earn a bachelor of science in sustainable business or effective just last fall a master of management degree with a sustainable business focus. Through the gift, the degree program is projected to grow into a stand-alone master's level program within the next two years, according to Tueth.

The $1 million gift also will allow the proposed Center for Sustainable Business to be up and running sooner than planned. The center, which is as yet unnamed, will serve both the academic and business communities once its business plan is accepted by the Board of Trustees.

"We see the sustainable business center as a clearinghouse on information on sustainability for this region and, ultimately, we hope, nationwide," Balog said. Its goals include offering students opportunities to connect with businesses for internships; providing information and other services to local business; hosting regional and local seminars, conferences, and workshops; and establishing a Web site with information on sustainable business practices, events, and other components of the burgeoning field.