Gerald Pearson (1905-1987) and Daryl Chapin (1906-1995) graduated from the Willamette Physics department in 1926 and 1927 respectively. Born in Salem, Pearson went on to earn a Masters degree from Stanford University, and joined Bell labs in 1929; Chapin, originally from Ellensburg Washington, earned a Masters at the University of Washington, and taught Physics at Oregon State College prior to arriving at Bell labs in 1930. In 1952, they teamed up with Bell chemist Calvin Fuller to explore alternatives to dry cell batteries for telecommunications. Pearson struck upon the superior generating capacity of silicon compared to selenium based chips, and in 1954 Bell labs patented their work. Pearson went on to teach solid-state physics at Stanford for over 25 years, while Chapin continued to work for Bell until the late 1970s. In 2008, they were both inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Environmental and Earth Sciences Department
Unlike most environmental programs at small liberal arts colleges, Willamette University consciously sought to institutionalize the program by anchoring it in a department with tenure track lines. By 1997, the department had three tenure track positions, and had participation by additional faculty from Politics, Economics, History, Biology, and Chemistry. Today, the department includes five tenure track lines supporting its interdisciplinary core, and includes courses from six departments.
Alternative Futures Project
Funded through the Lilly Foundation in 1977, the Alternative Futures Project was led by professors Russ Beaton (Economics) and Ed Stillings (Politics), two early campus environmental and sustainability advocates. Faculty from departments across campus participated in workshops and team-taught, cross-disciplinary courses, engaged students in service projects, and examined the role of the university in developing a regional comprehensive economic and environmental plan. While the project only lasted three years, many of the courses created during the AFP became the basis of the interdisciplinary “Part B” courses of the general education curriculum. Many of the faculty went on to become the champions of later campus and community sustainability efforts, such as Beaton, who taught the first campus courses devoted to sustainability per se in the late 1980s, and founded Sustainable Fairview Associates with other AFP participants in 2002.
Willamette Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (WEST)
In the wake of Paul Hawken’s inaugural Dempsey Environmental Lecture just days after 9/11, students in a sustainability course offered by Professor Karen Arabas approached then-President Pelton regarding signing the Talloires Declaration on behalf of the university. Concerned the signature was less meaningful than concrete action, President Pelton created WEST as a forum for student, faculty, and administrative input. Participation in WEST was student driven, voluntary, and quite sporadic, but WEST did spearhead significant changes in food service, energy efficiency, and green purchasing, due to participation by Grounds and Administrative Services.