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David E. Shi receives AASHE Lifetime Achievement Award


David E. Shi, an environmental historian who served 16 years as president of Furman University (1994-2010), is the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The award honors outstanding leaders who have made significant contributions to the advancement of sustainability in higher education over their lifetimes. Shi is the fourth recipient of the award.


The AASHE Sustainability Awards recognize the institutions and individuals that help lead higher education to a sustainable future. This year, AASHE received more than 360 entries that resulted in 12 winners announced across five categories.


The Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed to individuals with at least 10 years of documented accomplishments in the field of higher education sustainability who have had a significant impact on a large number of individuals and organizations.


“The award is obviously a great honor,” said Shi, who now lives in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. “I immediately felt a profound sense of humility and gratitude because the award actually represents the work of hundreds of people at Furman – faculty, staff and students – and so many others who supported our efforts with grants or with research projects.”

Some of the initiatives championed by Shi during his Furman presidency include the following:

  • Furman was a charter signatory of the Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The university aims to be carbon neutral by 2026.

  • The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities was established and serves as a hub for exploring complex sustainability issues on campus and beyond.

  • A general education requirement in sustainability (Humans and the Natural Environment) was established for all students.

  • A Bachelor of Science in sustainability science was created, the first at a private liberal arts and sciences university in the U.S.

  • Furman built South Carolina’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building and is now home to eight LEED buildings.

  • Furman’s Community Conservation Corps was established in 2009 – a program conceived by Shi for mobilizing students, faculty and staff members to weatherize homes for low-income residents in Greenville.

  • Furman developed an organic practice farm that is tended by students and supplies weekly produce to the university’s dining hall.

  • The Greenbelt Engaged Living Community fosters sustainable living and lifestyle choices among 16 student residents who live in the cabins along Furman Lake.

  • The first of its kind, a faculty affiliate program comprising 65 faculty members incorporates sustainability themes and research projects in curricula across multiple disciplines.

  • Shi led a community task force that collaborated with municipalities and the county to build the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, a nationally recognized, 22-mile rail-to-trail, a portion of which runs through campus.

“The 2021 award winners demonstrate an inspiring passion for solving some of the world’s most complex challenges. They are truly pioneering the campus sustainability movement,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser.

AASHE held a virtual awards ceremony on Dec. 9 at noon Eastern time to recognize and celebrate the 2021 winners. To date, more than 110 campuses and individuals have been recognized through the award program since its inception in 2006.

For more information, contact the Furman News and Media Strategy office at 919-548-6493.

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