Beth M. Heller '78 gift helps WWS bring back undergraduate policy conferences
For the past four years, Beth Moss Heller ’78 and William J. Heller have harnessed the wind to produce electricity for homes in Europe. Now, they have found a way to use their alternative energy company to power another critical resource: education.
The Hellers, partners in a renewable energy business, have calculated the approximate income of one of their company’s windmills and are donating that amount annually to Princeton to fund two important junior-year classes in the Woodrow Wilson School—a policy conference and a task force focused on international or natural resources issues. “We want the next generation of leaders to be concerned about the environment and energy policy,” Beth Heller says.
For the Hellers, development of clean energy is both a personal concern and the foundation of their business. Beth and William, a former corporate chief executive, along with several partners, own an energy producing business he founded in 2002 in London, where the Hellers live.
The successful venture now has projects underway in a number of European countries, including Spain. There, near Zaragoza, the company owns or has a stake in about 160 windmills—more precisely, wind turbine generators, those tall, slender towers topped by three blades that resemble sleek airplane propellers and are used to convert wind energy to electricity.
Their gift was inspired by an event they attended in London last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Wilson School. The Hellers were impressed with the leadership of Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, who presided over the gathering.
They were happy to learn that Slaughter plans to revive the junior year policy conference for Wilson school undergraduate majors. In these distinctive classes, a group of 15 to 20 students must study, grapple with, and propose solutions to a broad policy problem—as opposed to the smaller task forces that are currently offered. Alumni often look back on policy conferences as the formative experience of their Wilson school education.
The Hellers have not designated a particular generator in Spain as the Princeton windmill. “But if Anne-Marie Slaughter wants to show up, I’ll be happy to paint one orange and black for the day,” William Heller says.