Director of Sustainability Elizabeth Drake met with the late Rosamund “Roz” Zander ’64 twice in recent years, including once at Zander’s home in Cambridge, Mass.
In her short time with Zander — a leader in the fields of family therapy, leadership development, and personal growth; an artist; and a staunch advocate for sustainability — Drake felt a connection to her.
“It was clear that she cared deeply about the environment and the opportunity for us all to rise to the challenges of these times,” says Drake.
That connection will deepen this Saturday, when Drake delivers the annual McCabe Lecture on “The Climate Crisis and the Power of Possibility” at Garnet Weekend. Zander was scheduled to give this year’s lecture, but passed away on September 5.
“We are deeply saddened by Roz’s passing,” says Swarthmore President Valerie Smith. “Her passion and enthusiasm for a wide range of subjects — including art, environmental sustainability, and human development — were inspiring and contagious.
“I am profoundly grateful to Elizabeth for agreeing to deliver this year’s McCabe Lecture, particularly under these difficult circumstances,” Smith adds. “I was fortunate to be with Roz and Elizabeth when they last met, and it was remarkable to see how quickly and easily they connected around their shared belief in the value of living purposefully and their commitment to environmental sustainability.”
Through the lecture, Drake hopes to “honor Zander’s legacy and dedication to the environment by connecting her teachings about possibility to my own philosophy for living in this era of climate crisis.”
Drake will touch upon Zander’s two books, The Art of Possibility (co-written with her former husband, Ben Zander) and Pathways to Possibility, based on Zander’s experiences as a family therapist and executive coach. She will connect them to her own approach to sustainability work, “framing possibility as a powerful tool for living and acting in this era of climate crisis.”
Zander, who graduated from Swarthmore with a degree in English literature, coached people to create a life of vision, passion, and contribution — values she lived by and embodied herself. In 2021, she made a $5 million gift to Swarthmore to help fund a geoexchange plant, an essential element of Swarthmore’s To Zero by Thirty-Five effort for carbon neutrality.
In addition to the outright gift, Zander issued a fundraising challenge to the College community: Raise $1.5 million for the geoexchange plant by June 30, 2022, and she would match the sum to fully fund the $8 million project. Her leadership motivated fellow Swarthmoreans, who met the challenge ahead of the deadline.
“What we have done to our environment since the Industrial Revolution stands out as the most critical issue of our time,” Zander said when announcing her fundraising challenge. “I’m thrilled to support this amazing project, having experienced that Swarthmore’s commitment to reducing carbon in the air, and sustainability overall, runs very deep indeed.”
Additionally, Zander supported the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship, which Drake views as central to the work of her office.
“We’re incredibly grateful for her generosity in helping us to fulfill our goals of becoming carbon neutral and educating the next generation of sustainability leaders,” she says.
Looking forward to her lecture, Drake hopes for students, their families, and other attendees to “leave with a framework that enables them to engage with the reality of the climate crisis while also feeling empowered to participate in change-making.”
“I think this is particularly timely, for a few reasons,” she adds. “We've just concluded a summer of record-breaking climate impacts in the U.S. and around the globe, underscoring the urgency of the climate crisis. At the same time, we see many positive examples of action — including right here at Swarthmore, as we're in the midst of implementing our transformative energy plan — that provide a window into a different future.”
About Garnet Weekend
Garnet Weekend is Swarthmore's homecoming and family weekend, providing alumni, students, and families opportunities to engage with each other and the campus community. It takes place on Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Click here for a full schedule of events.