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EDITORS: A photo of Swisher is available at http://newsphotos.stanford.edu. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Institute
MAP/Ming Visiting Professorship addresses energy and environment; Joel Swisher chosen as first recipient
Jane Woodward (M.S. '83, M.B.A. '87), chief executive officer of investment firm Mineral Acquisition Partners (MAP), and Mike Ming (B.S. '80, M.S. '87), a managing member of K. Stewart Energy Group, have created the MAP/Ming Visiting Professorship on Energy and the Environment. Its first awardee is Joel Swisher of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who has more than 20 years' experience in research and consulting about clean energy technology.
"We are excited about the opportunities offered by the MAP/Ming endowment to bring leading energy experts to Stanford University," wrote School of Engineering Dean Jim Plummer and former School of Earth Sciences Dean Franklin Orr in a letter welcoming Swisher to Stanford. "We are confident that your presence on campus will not only make a huge difference to our students, but also to our emerging initiative in energy and the environment."
Woodward and Ming say their careers in energy were inspired by Stanford teachers, especially the late Professor A. J. Horn, a self-described "energy awareness evangelist" who pointed out the pitfalls of America's dependence on petroleum and pointed to conservation and diversification of energy sources as part of the solution. A veteran Standard Oil (Chevron) engineer and member of Stanford's Class of '39, his courses in the School of Earth Sciences drew more than 5,000 students over the years.
"A. J. was passionate about teaching so that students would be informed citizens in whatever they did," says Woodward, who also serves as a consulting associate professor for Stanford's School of Engineering.
"He taught us that energy was far more than imported oil," adds Ming, who serves on the Petroleum Investments Committee managing energy investments for the School of Earth Sciences. "Energy comes from nuclear reactors, geothermal power, windmills -- all far more intricate than the single source I originally intended to study."
Woodward first studied with Horn in 1980 as a graduate student in the School of Earth Sciences, then served as his teaching assistant. She went on to Stanford's Graduate School of Business and later founded Palo Alto-based MAP, which manages more than $130 million in limited partnerships, mostly in natural gas. She has taught in the School of Earth Sciences and in the School of Engineering since 1990.
As Woodward teaches her students these days, the process of turning energy resources into energy services -- "like cold beers and hot showers" -- can have hidden costs. More than 50 percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal, she notes, but plants convert only 35 percent of the coal's energy into electricity, and light bulbs convert only 5 percent of that into light. Similarly, cars capture less than 15 percent of the energy in gasoline. And that's without considering the environmental impact of extracting and burning those fuels.
Ming, who worked in the Texas oil fields during high school and college summers, first encountered Horn as an undergraduate in the School of Earth Sciences in 1978 and also became his teaching assistant. He later worked for Chevron before returning to the School of Engineering in 1986 to earn a master's degree. Then he headed "back to the rigs" in Oklahoma, where he eventually co-founded K. Stewart Energy.
"Stanford and this country have an obligation to the world to advance the research and learning in this area, because the consequences are huge," he says.
Woodward and Ming met during their graduate studies and became close friends over the years. Both also remained close to Horn and his wife, Ruth, and shared another inspiring mentor as well: Professor Gil Masters, who taught in the School of Engineering.
Ming was drawn by Masters' focus on alternative energy and new technologies: "I was probably the only petroleum engineer in Gil's class on small-scale energy systems studying how to build an energy-self-sufficient home." Woodward became Masters' faculty colleague. "I wouldn't have taught all these years without being able to lean on Gil's experience and wisdom and build on his history of teaching energy classes," she says.
Leveraging a legacy
In 1999, Horn passed away. In 2001, Masters retired. The two had guided thousands of students into the study of energy and nurtured Stanford's programs in the field. Masters' courses had become mainstays of the new interdisciplinary major for undergraduates called Earth Systems, which offers a track in energy among several environmental specialties.
Ming and his wife, Diane, a chemical engineering major in the Class of '81 who also studied with Horn, contributed to the endowment that supports the Earth Systems Program. Woodward had helped to establish the A. J. and Ruth Horn Lectureship on Energy, and her firm had created a fellowship program to place Stanford graduate students in nongovernmental organizations working on energy issues. At a symposium honoring Masters in 2001, they decided to combine forces by creating a professorship that combines disciplines.
The MAP/Ming Visiting Professor on Energy and the Environment will serve jointly in Stanford's School of Engineering and School of Earth Sciences for an academic year. Over the initial five-year term of the gift, appointees will add course offerings in energy for undergraduate and graduate students across the campus. Swisher, for example, will deliver a Winter Quarter lecture series on greenhouse-gas management and a Spring Quarter course on greenhouse-gas migration strategies. The post also will provide Stanford faculty with a series of expert colleagues and help to recruit new permanent faculty.
Swisher earned both of his graduate degrees -- a 1980 master's degree in mechanical engineering and a 1991 doctorate in civil engineering from Stanford. He is an internationally renowned expert in the analysis, design and evaluation of building energy systems, utility energy efficiency, distributed generation and emission reduction programs, and the development and finance of carbon offset projects. His consulting clients include several corporations, electric utilities and European governments, the Electric Power Research Institute, the United Nations Environment Programme and multilateral financial institutions including the World Bank.
Derek Rosenfield is a writer in Stanford's Office of Development. Dawn Levy contributed to this report.
By Derek Rosenfield