In 2013, the 10-year anniversary of the Environmental Science and Policy Program, the family of Barbara Sawyer-Koch and Donald Koch presented ESPP with the Fate of the Earth Endowment.

Barb and Don share a passion for the environment and a deep concern for the negative impacts of climate change, and air and water degradation will have on future generations. While both have a long history with MSU, they wanted to ensure their estate would specifically address sustainability. In addition to MSU's research and outreach strengths, they were especially drawn to the interdisciplinary approach of ESPP.

The name of the endowment comes from the book "Fate of the Earth" by Jonathan Schell which led Don to compare the potential threat of a nuclear holocause to what civilization inflicts on the environment on a daily basis.

Sawyer-Koch family

The Sawyer-Koch family

The grant is designed to encourage students and scholars to address global environmental concerns, and will provide opportunities to expand interdisciplinary environmental educations, increase professional networking between environmental educators, and enhance public awareness of environmental and sustainability issues.

   “Barbara Sawyer-Koch’s and Don Koch’s generous support of a multitude of MSU initiatives enables the university to establish and strengthen programs that will advance our world-grant mission,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The Koch family’s mission is to have a profound influence on the world—now, and long after they have left this Earth. The Fate of the Earth Endowment and their other planned gifts will certainly ensure that.”

Barb served as a member of the MSU Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1996 and currently serves on the College of Social Science Alumni Board. Don is professor emeritus of philsophy and a nationally recognized scholar of the American philosopher John Dewey.

For more information on the background of the endowment, please read the article by University Development.


On Sept. 27, 2013, ESPP celebrated the generosity of the Sawyer-Kochs with a reception at the Kellogg Center. The reception featured addresses by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, Social Sciences Dean Marietta Baba and ESPP Director Jinhua Zhao thanking the Sawyer-Koch family for their support of interdicsiplinary environmental education and engagement.


Dr. Jinhua Zhao, ESPP Director, Dr. Marietta Baba, Dean of Social Science, Barbara Sawyer-Koch and Dr. Donald Koch, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon

Please visit the homepage for the reception to view more photographs of the event.

Inaugural Symposium: Human Well-being and the Environment

On April 10, 2013, as part of the events surrounding the Fate of the Earth Endowment, ESPP launched a symposium series to explore the challenges and opportunities we face in enhancing human well-being while protecting the environment. This symposium brought distinguished thinkers from around the world to explore what we know, what we need to know and what we must do as we move into a century of unprecedented environmental change, technological advancement and scale of human activity.

The event included research focused seminars and discussion and emphasized events and presentations that spoke to the broader MSU and Michigan community. In addition to live events and webcasts, the Inaugural Symposium generated educational materials that will be used in classes and non-traditional education in the spring and beyond.


Eric Freedman, Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism; Steve Running, Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Montana; Dennis Dimick, Executive Editor, National Geographic Magazine; David Poulson, Associate Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism

For a full agenda, biographies of speakers and videos of the symposium, please go to the symposium homepage.

Future Events

ESPP is committed to continue with the success of the first Fate of the Earth Symposium with a second symposium on April 1, 2015. Our planning committe is working diligently to schedule dynamic and interdisciplinary speakers. Stay tuned to this page for more information.