They may have graduated from Fredonia more than five decades ago, but members of the Class of 1959 have proven to be forward-thinkers. They have raised, and continue to raise, significant dollars to support sustainability projects that benefit the College Lodge.
It was at their 50-year reunion that class members launched a visionary campaign to generate ongoing funding for green energy initiatives at the lodge.
“We wanted to do something for the college, and we felt that green energy was the thing to do because it was costing the lodge money for electricity,” said Senior Class President Ed Buseck. Class members cherished the lodge, which was an ideal setting for camping, nature walks and skiing.
The Class of 1959 wanted to show current and future students that they had a vision for the lodge, and the environment in general, and they wanted to leave their mark at the College Lodge with alternative energy sources in operation.
“Rather than building an endowment the class decided to have all of its funds directed immediately to support alternative energy initiatives at the lodge,” explained Karen West, senior director of Development with the Fredonia College Foundation.
Starting in 2009, class members made annual contributions through the Fredonia College Foundation to support green initiatives. The ongoing funding campaign was led by Diane Coville, Ronald Harrington and Ed.
Their donations helped to finance two wind turbines that were installed in 2011 and remained in operation until this past year, when one was struck by lightning and the other was beset by mechanical failure.
But class members had no intention of abandoning their commitment to the lodge. Funds that they continue to raise were combined with the insurance reimbursement, proceeds from the sale of scrap medal from the idled turbines, and grants obtained by the Faculty Student Association (FSA), which owns and operates the lodge, to purchase a new solar-energy panel system that was put into operation in July.
“They work pretty well; they get a good amount of sun, and solar panels have evolved to be more sensitive to sun,” explained Ed, who taught biology and conservation at Cassadaga Valley High School and happens to live on the same ridge just four miles from the lodge.
Also this past summer, the class established its own pooled fund within the Doors to Opportunity Pooled Fund with the Fredonia College Foundation to provide a mechanism to channel, in perpetuity, financial support into new green energy projects at the lodge. Class members can donate gifts of cash, securities, real estate, life insurance and bequests at any time. When the fund reaches $10,000, the foundation will allocate a percentage of earnings, currently at 4.5 percent, to support green initiatives.
“Without Karen West we would not have made it,” Ed said, explaining that she thought it was a fabulous idea and worked diligently to make it happen.
Though he transferred to Syracuse University to study pre-law (Fredonia offered only elementary education, speech education and music education in the 1950s), Ronald Harrington remains connected to Fredonia. He attended the 25- and 50-year reunions of the Class of 1959 and makes it a point to visit the campus and foundation staff every year. He was very active on campus during his one year at Fredonia and was freshman class president.
“I have nothing but fond memories of Fredonia,” said Ronald, who earned a law degree in 1967 and continues to practice law in Ventura, Calif. “Fredonia has a unique and special place in my heart.”