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Presentation by Gifford Pinchot III, wife Libba kicks off 2019-20 campus theme

Gifford Pinchot III

Entrepreneur, author and inventor Gifford Pinchot III and his wife Libba will offer a TED Talk-like presentation, followed by a panel discussion led by Sabrina Watkins, former global director of sustainability for ConocoPhilips, at Western Carolina University on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

The event will be at 4 p.m. in the A.K. Hinds University Center theater and is free and open to the public. It is a signature event of this year’s campus learning theme – “Sustainability and the Environment.”

Pinchot III is the grandson of Gifford Pinchot Sr., who was the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the 28th governor of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he managed the forests at the Biltmore Estate.

Pinchot III is credited with inventing the concept of intrapreneurship in a paper he and Libba wrote in 1978 titled “Intra-corporate Entrepreneurship” while attending Tarrytown School for Entrepreneurs in New York. The two founded Pinchot & Company, an innovation and intrapreneurship consulting firm that has worked with half of the Fortune 500 companies and helped them to launch more than 700 new products and businesses.

Libba Pinchot

In 2002, they co-founded Bainbridge Graduate Institute, which was the first school to offer a master's of business administration in sustainable business. The institute has now merged with Presidio Graduate School. Pinchot III has been recognized for carrying on his grandfather’s work in conservationism.

Libba Pinchot has helped train and coach employees and executives to develop and run hundreds of successful innovative projects. She also has advised numerous educational startups in the areas of service, technology and education. She was a founding staff member of the first computer-assisted education project at Stanford University.

The Pinchots explained their work during an interview on NBC’s Today Show.

“We are honored to have the Pinchots visit WCU,” said Lauren Bishop, WCU’s chief sustainability officer. “It is a truly unique opportunity to learn about the Pinchot family legacy from being the first in the U.S. to manage natural resources and advance forestry as a professional, to developing the first and one of the most prestigious MBA programs focused on sustainability in the country.

“Given that we are located in a region known as the ‘Cradle of Forestry,’ some could say we are essentially the modern birthplace of practicing sustainability as a vocation in our country as a result of their leadership. Having them on campus is a great way to kick off the 2019-20 campus theme.”

Sabrina Watkins

Following a 15-minute talk each by Gifford and Libba, Watkins will lead a 30-minute panel discussion. Watkins retired from ConocoPhillips in 2017 after a decade as the global head of sustainability. She was responsible for corporate policies, positions, implementation strategies, results and reporting. During her tenure, ConocoPhillips cut more than 7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, recycled millions of cubic meters of produced water, implemented a leading human rights position and stakeholder engagement program, and implemented five-year goals and action plans for all priority issues.

Watkins’ current work focuses on strengthening companies’ sustainability leadership and the relationships between companies, investors and activists. She serves on the boards of Future 500, Presidio Graduate School and Balsam Mountain Trust.

The event was organized by the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management, with assistance from Facilities Management, the Geosciences and Natural Resources Department, the College of Business, the Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, and the Sustainable Energy Initiative.

For more information, contact Bishop at 828-227-3562 or

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