Princeton Environmental Institute renamed in honor of donors

Carl and Judy Ferenbach, pictured at their Vermont farm.
Credit: Karen Bae Knight.

The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has been renamed the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University in honor of donors Carl Ferenbach III and Judy Ferenbach, the co-founders of the High Meadows Foundation.

Princeton University officials said a major gift by the couple will support environmental research and educational initiatives and strengthen the institute’s ability to address environmental problems. The university did not disclose the amount of the gift.

The institute was founded in 1994 to serve as a central resource for spearheading environmental research at the university and fostering multidisciplinary collaborations. Faculty and researchers from across the university focus on environmental issues, including climate change, carbon mitigation, biodiversity, urban resilience, and water security. More than 120 members of the faculty representing 30 academic disciplines are active in the institute’s research and teaching programs.

“For the past quarter century, PEI has catalyzed multidisciplinary environmental research at Princeton while educating new generations of global citizens and leaders,” said Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber in a written statwement. “With our planet increasingly threatened by intersecting environmental crises, Judy and Carl Ferenbach’s passion and vision for protecting the environment are more important than ever. Carl and Judy have helped to guide PEI from its inception, and their support has enabled the university to become an innovative leader in the effort to understand and protect our natural world. As the Institute enters a new chapter in its history, it is with deep gratitude that we recognize the Ferenbachs’ many contributions by naming the High Meadows Environmental Institute in their honor.” 

In 1986, Carl Ferenbach, a 1964 alumnus of Princeton, co-founded Berkshire Partners, a private equity investment firm based in Boston. He served as a managing director until 2011. He now dedicates his time to his foundation, the High Meadows Fund, the High Meadows Institute, the High Meadows Investment Group, and his Vermont farm. He served two terms as a trustee for Princeton University. He currently serves as chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund, and sits on the boards of the Wilderness Society and Climate Central, a Princeton-based group of scientists and journalists. The Ferenbachs have supported the environmental institute at Princeton University for the past quarter century.

“It is our hope that this gift inspires generations of students to engage in environmental stewardship because we’ve reached a moment where it will play a crucial role in every social, economic, and political issue,” Ferenbach said. “Scientific research only becomes a reality if our understanding can be formulated into sound policy, and that policy only becomes effective if it actually can be implemented into our society. The institute brings together experts from many academic disciplines, making it uniquely positioned to lead in this effort.”

Michael Celia, the director of the institute, said that today’s environmental challenges will require solutions that transcend boundaries, from disciplinary boundaries to geopolitical ones. “These solutions will require new and innovative approaches to research, education, and outreach so that the impacts of human activities on our natural environment can be managed effectively and sustainably,” he said.

“We’ve got to do everything we can for the environment, and we’ve got to do it with a real sense of urgency,” added Ferenbach. “We have the ability as humans to turn the tide. But the emphasis must be on ‘we.’”