Endowed Prize Established at Allegheny College to Address Environmental Challenges

Many environmentalists believe that climate issues are the biggest challenges facing world leaders today, and in particular they see the availability of potable water as a major source of future concern for many nations.

“Water will most likely become the new gold,” says Henry “Bing” Ewalt, a 1962 Allegheny graduate who majored in political science. “Many won’t be able to afford water and others won’t be able to get it no matter how much they might have to spend. While we won’t be here to act on such issues, we do firmly believe that future generations of environmental leaders educated at Allegheny will be prepared to make intelligent decisions, which will address the then-current issues in reasonable ways.”

As a way to help provide incentives to solve environmental problems, Ewalt and his wife, Mary, have created the Allegheny College Environmental Prize with an endowment of $100,000. The endowment also provides support for students pursuing internships, known as Ewalt Environment Scholars.

The Ewalts were considering bestowing the endowment elsewhere, but then learned that the Allegheny Environmental Science Program was the No. 2-rated program in the nation in 2015 by environmentalscience.org. “We concluded for a number of reasons that the gift would have more of an impact at Allegheny,” says Mary Ewalt. “People have a desire to be a part of, or associate with, winners and will spend to do so.”

The recipient of the prize created by the endowment will be chosen by a committee of Allegheny faculty and staff. The winner of the prize, to be awarded annually or biennially, will be brought to campus to interact with classes, deliver lectures, and have meetings individually with students interested in environmental issues. That person will have created an original environmental contribution and preferably excel in an area of research pertaining to water, hydro-geology, hydrology or environmental geology, according to the endowment terms.

“The intent of the Allegheny Environmental Prize is to focus and motivate students, potential students, faculty, the whole Allegheny family, and the public to seek creative solutions to ever-challenging environmental issues,” says Bing Ewalt. “The publicity to be generated by the prize is also intended to spread Allegheny’s excellent reputation.”

Terrence Bensel, associate provost and director of the Allegheny Gateway, says: “For almost 10 years, Allegheny has had a lot of success bringing experts and practitioners in many fields to campus for short durations. Many of these individuals have taught a three- or four-day, intensive short course on their subject of expertise with profound and lasting impacts on our students. The Allegheny College Environmental Prize from the Ewalts will ensure that we have the opportunity to continue to do that with a specific focus on critical issues related to water and sustainability.

“Issues of water supply and quality are both a significant environmental challenge of our time as well as an area that many of our students are interested in learning about and pursuing careers in. As such, the Ewalts’ prize could not have come at a better time, and we are very appreciative of their generosity,” Bensel says.

The Ewalts, who split their time between living in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, focus their charitable giving in three areas: 1) Environmental challenges and education “because it’s critical to the health of the planet and the welfare of all people,” Mary says; 2) Medical services for those who can’t afford them, “including refugees,” she says. “Without physical health, people can’t thrive and survive”; 3) Education, especially early childhood education. “We can attempt to benefit the world long after we leave it,” she adds.

“Usually we become aware of an organization doing good work in one of our areas of interest. Then we make a judgment as to whether the organization can make an impact with the limited funds we have to contribute,” says Bing Ewalt. “This, most importantly, involves determining how much of the gift hits the front lines of the need. Allegheny was attractive to us because of its long track record of escalating excellence and that none of our gift is ever used for ‘administrative costs.’”

Bing Ewalt is a retired lawyer who earned his law degree at the University of Michigan. He also is a decorated U.S. Army veteran, having been awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Mary is a retired teacher and business manager. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rice University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University. They have two children and two grandchildren.