Eyler“Over the next 20 years, environmental issues are going to become huge economic drivers,” remarks John Eyler, former CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us and member of the College of the Environment’s Dean’s Advisory Board. At its core, a healthy business environment and a thriving natural environment are fundamentally linked. And in this increasingly crowded planet—where an expanding global citizenry requires the continued delivery of goods and services—acknowledging this linkage becomes more important than ever.

John joined the Advisory Board to help bring a variety of perspectives to the table, advising the dean and College leadership about ways to successfully connect the environmental science community with that of the wider world. “I can serve as a business sounding board,” says John, who is eager to see the College grow into the premier environmental sciences and policy institution in the world. To ultimately be successful, there needs to be more “cohesion, communication, and multidisciplinary” approaches to problem solving, a concept he sees as integral to the College’s very fabric.

To help foster that, John and his wife Gail have made a generous pledge to launch the College of the Environment’s Strategic Opportunities Fund. These venture funds are meant to aid College leadership in their recruitment and retention of the most promising and accomplished faculty from across the country and indeed the world. As the Eylers note, by attracting other academic leaders, the College will be even better positioned as a leader in the environmental sciences and policy arena.

Both John and Gail’s careers are rooted in the upper echelons of the business world. But beyond boardrooms and bottom lines, each has a lifelong connection to nature as well. John traces this to growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where being surrounded by immense beauty and interacting with nature was a daily occurrence. His appreciation for a healthy environment was further enhanced by decades of travel to places where he saw the ill effects of an ignored environment. “In Shanghai,” he recalls “the air pollution was so bad that I couldn’t see the river from my hotel room—and it was right there.” Now in retirement, both John and Gail travel extensively to experience firsthand some of the wildest places on earth, including a recent trip to Bhutan to meet with the World Wildlife Fund—where Gail is a member of its National Council—to discuss strategies to save endangered tigers and their natural habitat. They are devoted to working with numerous environmental organizations and volunteer their time and expertise to help promote the wellbeing of humans and the natural environment alike.