The Quaker testimonies that we promote at GFS become a part of our students' lives. For some, the testimony of Stewardship has colored our graduates' professional careers. In celebration of Earth Month, we are highlighting alumni who are helping make our planet a "greener" place.
Josh Volk '90
Josh Volk '90 (photo above), owner of Slow Hand Farm in Portland, OR, grows vegetables for a community-supported agriculture program and consults on organic and sustainable farming methods. "I get to work with new farmers all over the country and around the world, people of all ages who are finding how empowering and rewarding [it is] to directly work with nature to provide food for their communities," says the author of 2017's Compact Farms. "The food we eat and the way we grow and distribute our food has a huge impact on our environment. By growing good vegetables, using organic methods, greatly reducing distribution chains, and being transparent and visible in what we're doing, we're able to eliminate layers of waste and environmental damage and create an example of how others can do the same without the need for huge investments of dollars or land."
Josh credits GFS with helping him answer the call of organic farming. "GFS gave me critical thinking and communication skills that have allowed me to come into the field of small scale-farming and understand how and why it works, and to pass that information on to others."
Photo by Shawn Linehan.
Rich Walkling '90
Rich Walkling '90 is the CFO and planner for Restoration Design Group, a landscape architecture and engineering firm that specializes in creek and mountain top restoration, bringing nature to places where it has been tamed or eradicated. "I love the first fish that swims up a river after it has been restored," Rich says of his inspiration for his work. "I love seeing the first kids climb down the banks into a creek that was until recently in a pipe underground. I love seeing a tribe return to its spiritual home atop a restored mountain that has been off-limits for 75 years. I love the healing of it all." RDG's projects are highly visible and visited frequently; they're designed to encourage interaction with the natural world and inspire a new generation of advocates—and to deliver nature to people and communities who have it the least.
As for how GFS influenced his life's work, he says, "It's all right there in the school song:
I will not cease from Mental Fight/Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:/Till we have built Jerusalem/In England's green & pleasant Land. This is what GFS teaches. This is WHY GFS teaches. There is a larger mission well beyond one's own edification. I see it not only in the professional choices I've made but also those of so many of my peers across many careers. It took me years to realize that our collective calling was all about building Jerusalem among these dark satanic mills, but it couldn't be clearer to me now. And couldn't be more important than now. If you want someone to believe something, make them sing it."
Andrew Sharpless '73
As the international CEO of Oceana, Andrew Sharpless '73 fights for policy changes that save the ocean and help feed the world. "We put more fish in the sea and stop ocean pollution from oil drilling and from throw-away plastic packages," says the career environmentalist of his ongoing campaign to improve ocean abundance.
Andrew credits GFS with being "the fundamental transformative institution in my life": "GFS supported initiative, entrepreneurship, and creativity. It demanded hard work and gave all of us a path forward that respected our individual interests and talents."
Jonathan Propper '73
"Every Dropps counts toward saving water, plastic, and planet," says Jonathan Propper '73, CEO of Dropps, a direct-to-home provider of safe, effective, eco-responsible products that are both convenient and economical. Jonathan is most inspired by challenging the norm, and traces his environmentalist roots back 49 years, when he celebrated the first Earth Day in at Belmont Plaza in Fairmount while a student at GFS. "I search my conscience every day for a better way," he shares. "GFS inspired us to think this way."
Wynn Calder '79
Wynn Calder '79 has made a career out of educating schools on sustainability and how to make their campuses more efficient. As the director of Sustainable Schools, LLC, and co-director of the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF), he consults with K-12 schools and colleges on sustainability in teaching, research, practice, and campus operations, with a focus on assessment and long-term planning. "GFS encouraged me to think about individual and community well-being first and foremost," he says of his commitment to helping make the world a greener place. And what he finds most rewarding? "Helping schools help students be better and more committed stewards of people and the planet."