A group of Green Mountain College graduates, parents and faculty have launched an online fund drive with the goal to keep the college open.
Huddy Grandy, an alumna from the class of 2008, is one of the organizers of the fund drive. She said the initial goal is $600,000 and $5 million by June 1.
“Our primary goal is to prevent closure. We don’t want to lose accreditation for the school. We don’t want to have any lapse in operation of the institution. Obviously, we want it to stay open in the long term,” she said.
The SaveGMC website says pledges are being sought to “retain current faculty and staff while we work to transition leadership at the college.”
“During the coming months, a team of alumni, students, parents, and community activists will be hiring professionals — lawyers, accountants, and fundraisers — to facilitate the restructuring and continued operation of the school,” the site says.
Grandy said the organizers have “launched a pretty huge effort on social media” to get the word out about the effort. The SaveGMC leaders have heard from alumni from as far back as the 1940s and members are reaching out to their own networks of GMC-connected friends and associates.
“We’ve got a large presence on Facebook. We have developed a website. We’re putting it out on Twitter. We’re tweeting at a lot of nationally-known environmentalists and folks who we think would have an interest in saving one of the only environmental colleges in the country,” she said.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education rated GMC’s curriculum as the best in America for sustainability and the college received a perfect “green” rating from the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.
Larry Sherman said GMC’s sustainability had a powerful effect on his daughter, Claire Sherman, a first-year transfer student at Green Mountain.
“She applied to several places and got in, but Green Mountain was her No. 1 choice because it was the No. 1 school in sustainability. When she went out and visited last summer, she was just thrilled by what they saw there,” he said.
Larry Sherman said GMC was so inspiring, he “wanted to go back to school, I really did.”
Sherman said he and his wife were angry and shocked, but he said he may have had a different view. He said he attended Reed College in Oregon, which also had a shaky period just before he was a student there.
“I think I’m coming from a place where I benefited from a group of people who saved that college, and I would love to see the same thing happen here,” he said.
Several of the GMC alumni spoke about Sweet Briar College in Virginia, which was set to close in 2015 before a group of alumni and supporters stepped in to keep the college open. The effort was successful but, like College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Sweet Briar’s accreditation is under threat because of questions about its fiscal stability.
The SaveGMC organization was formed after Bob Allen, president of Green Mountain College, announced on campus Jan. 22 that the college would close its doors after the current semester ends.
According to Allen, the combination of a decrease in tuition and an increase in expenses left the small, independent college in Poultney in a financial crisis that school administrators could not solve.
Another member of SaveGMC’s leadership committee, Kheya Ganguly, executive director at Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum in Rutland, said both her daughters had gone to GMC. Ganguly said her concern was not only for preserving GMC.
“We feel that not only would this be a blow nationally and to the future to lose it, we also feel it’s going to be a huge blow to Rutland County at large and Poultney specifically,” she said.
Grandy said GMC was worth saving because it was a “beautiful gem.”
“It’s a powerful school, and it brings home a powerful message to all its students. Environmental stewards are born. They go to Green Mountain and they come out a completely different person,” she said.
As of about 6 p.m., the SaveGMC campaign had raised $41,000, according to its website.
In an email, Carla Snook, a spokeswoman for Green Mountain College, said she couldn’t reach Allen on Tuesday.
“He and his staff are devoting their full attention to helping students, faculty and staff make a transition to their next opportunity,” she said in the email.