RCC President & CEO, Dr. Robert K. Musil was the Earth Week Speaker on April 16 at High Point University (HPU) in High Point, North Carolina. Under the leadership of HPU President Dr. Nido R. Qubein HPU has increased its enrollment, funding, and reputation, rising to the number one ranking in regional universities in the South. Qubein, who arrived in the U.S. as an immigrant with $50 in his pocket, is also a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and motivational speaker who teaches a class on life skills to all freshmen.
Known for its entrepreneurial spirit, rapid growth and innovation, HPU is now working to increase its standing in sustainability. The campus already features the Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, cafeterias with locally grown food, and other sustainability measures, but environmental studies is currently only available as an undergraduate minor.
Working to expand environmental studies and student involvement is the HPU Green Team, a combination of faculty, professional staff, and students headed by the chief of Library Services, David Bryden. Bryden and the Green Team brought RCC’s Musil to campus where he met with HPU Provost Dr. Dennis Carroll and taught an advanced biology class for Professor Sandra Cooke on Rachel Carson’s pioneering role in marine biology.
Culminating Musil’s visit was his Earth Week lecture to a full house on “Rachel Carson’s Legacy for North Carolina Today.” Reading aloud from Carson’s first book, Under the Sea-Wind, and its central character, Rynchops, the Black Skimmer, Dr. Musil emphasized Carson’s environmental ethic. It is rooted, he said, in respect for all creatures and a sense of imagination and wonder first stirred by her love for North Carolina and its beaches while carrying out research at Beaufort. Musil also explained how Carson developed a sense of environmental justice through her early work at Johns Hopkins with two prominent biologists who rejected the then prevailing racist “science” of eugenics and her close relationship with her literary agent, Marie Rodell, who also helped publish Dr. Martin Luther King’s first book, Stride Toward Freedom.
Musil then urged his HPU audience to join in the work of the Rachel Carson Council and environmental justice, including concern for workers and residents around North Carolina’s huge industrial animal farms (CAFOs) which cause global climate change, but also harm predominately African-American, Latino, and poor communities. The same is true, Musil said, for the continuing plans to build huge pipelines carrying fracked natural gas throughout North Carolina. Ending with a rousing call to action, Musil urged HPU students and faculty to bring their concerns and activism directly to the political sphere, especially the upcoming 2018 elections. Following RCC President Musil’s visit, High Point University became the forty-seventh member of the Rachel Carson Council Campus Network (RCCN).