Non sibi and the environment

Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P’08
May 1, 2023

Non sibi is at the core of everything we do at Exeter, including our long-standing commitment to sound environmental stewardship. With the publication of Exeter’s first comprehensive sustainability and climate action plan, which you will read about in this issue, we take an important step forward in realizing our vision for environmental stewardship, and in meeting our responsibilities to future generations of students and our planet.

Our plan recognizes that our greatest contributions to sustainability and addressing the climate crisis will be through educating our students and be future environmental leaders. We want every student to graduate from Exeter with a strong understanding of the principles of sustainability and the issues posed by climate change. In recent years, we have steadily grown our curricular offerings in the areas of sustainability and climate science, but we see opportunities to do more, including adding more academic offerings inside and outside the sciences, bringing more speakers to campus who are leaders in relevant fields, creating sustainability-related internship opportunities, and growing the number of global studies programs with an environmental focus.  

Our students seek these opportunities and stand ready to be full partners in this endeavor. Their enthusiasm builds on a long tradition of student-led environmental stewardship, going back to Gifford Pinchot, Exeter class of 1885, who spoke in assembly more than a century ago about the importance of conserving our natural resources. The first ecology club was formed, and first  ecology course taught, when I was a student more than 50 years ago. Student engagement has been strong ever since, and is strong today, as students take an active role in shaping their environmental education and activism.

The Academy’s Non Sibi Value Statement

“Non Sibi, or Not For Oneself, inscribed on Exeter’s seal, attests to the philosophy that wisdom gained here should be used  for others as well as for oneself. Exonians are motivated by this philosophy to face the challenges of their day. Teaching and living the principles of a just and sustainable society — environmentally, economically and socially — are fundamental to this philosophy today. Exeter seeks to graduate young people whose ambitions and actions are inspired by their interest in others and the world around them.” 

We also commit to managing our campus facilities responsibly, reducing our environmental impact, and minimizing our contributions to climate change. Our plan contains ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions by 75 % by 2031 (we are close to 60% now) and achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. And we commit to integrating principles of sustainability into all of Exeter’s programs and operations. This means fostering a culture of sustain-ability and environmental awareness in all facets of our daily lives — where we learn, where we work, where we live, and where we play. As a school, we are aiming high and acting ambitiously to meet the environmental challenges of our day.

It has been encouraging to hear from many of you who care deeply about the issues of climate change and sustainability. I know many of our alumni are leaders in the field in their own right, and are eager to help us in this work. I am grateful for all the ways our alumni have supported our efforts thus far; your continued support will be vital to the success of this plan. In my first-ever column in this magazine in 2018, I said that Exeter has never stayed strong by staying the same. With the adoption of our first comprehensive sustainability and climate action plan, we move forward with the challenging and vitally important work of strengthening our environmental stewardship as a school and preparing our students to be environmental leaders.   


This story was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.