Skip to content

$10M Pledge Advances School of Climate, Environment, and Society

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am delighted to announce that Clark has received a $10 million pledge from our trustee and philanthropist Vickie Riccardo and her daughters, Jocelyn Spencer and Alyssa Spencer ’17. This gift enables the University to begin the process of establishing the new School of Climate, Environment, and Society — first, by recruiting a new dean to lead it. In recognition of this foundational gift, we will name the deanship of the school as the D.J.A. Spencer Dean of the School of Climate, Environment, and Society, honoring the late Donald Spencer, as well as his and Vickie’s daughters, Jocelyn and Alyssa. We also will establish the Vickie Riccardo Climate Catalyst Fund to help support the school’s development and growth.

These special distinctions honor not only the generosity of Vickie and her family but also their commitment to fostering an environment of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration within our academic community. The Riccardo and Spencer family previously committed $2 million to the renovation of Little Center and its Michelson Theater, which now features the Riccardo & Spencer Lobby. They are true champions of Clark, the liberal arts, and our community, and have repeatedly been among the first to respond to opportunities to support our strategic initiatives.

Earlier this academic year, an extensive planning process led by faculty and staff culminated in the recommendation to move forward in establishing the School of Climate, Environment, and Society at Clark. The school will more deliberately and strategically bring together scholars and practitioners from the Graduate School of Geography, the Department of Sustainability and Social Justice (formerly International Development, Community, and Environment), the Department of Economics, the George Perkins Marsh Institute, and the Center for Geospatial Analytics, and engage faculty from disciplines across the University to address one of the most urgent and profound global issues of our time. Further, the school will create a channel for Clark — through teaching, research, and external partnerships — to expand and amplify our impact on direct efforts to assess and slow climate change. It also will generate new and expanded course offerings and degree programs related to climate science, environmental studies and policy, biodiversity, and sustainability, among other critically important areas. All students, regardless of their major, will be able to register for courses within the school. Our goal is to open the school in Fall 2025.

The proposal to create the School of Climate, Environment, and Society has received broad and enthusiastic support from our faculty, administrators, and trustees, as well as students and alumni with whom I have shared the plans. Our goal is to raise at least $75 million in the coming years to support the new school and establish a sustainable endowment for its continued growth and operation.

I extend my deepest appreciation to Vickie, Jocelyn, and Alyssa for their inspiring gift and to all the members of our community who worked tirelessly to propose this new school and who will continue to shape the plans to bring it to life. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the exceptional work of professors Mary-Ellen Boyle, Ellen Foley, Karen Frey, Robert Johnston, and Christopher Williams.

Over the next few months, we will, as a community, have multiple occasions to recognize Vickie Riccardo’s decade of service to Clark as a trustee and to celebrate her and her family’s most recent gift to the University. I invite you to join me in expressing our gratitude for their unwavering belief in Clark’s excellence and our culture of possibility, and in expressing thanks to our faculty and staff for pursuing this exciting new endeavor.


David Fithian ’87

Learn more about how this fits into our strategic framework