Sally Gladwell: Biology Grad, Environmental Pioneer

Sally Gladwell was the kind of kid who was concerned about the energy efficiency of her family home, so it’s no surprise that she helped launch Xavier’s recycling program when she was a student in the early 1990s—long before Xavier had a Sustainability program and three Sustainability majors.

Now she’s channeled that lifelong concern for the environment into a career in environmental consulting with a focus on urban revitalization and sustainability.

“Urban revitalization is one of the reasons I get up each morning,” says Gladwell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Xavier in 1993 followed by a master’s in environmental science and management from Duquesne University.

“The most sustainable way for people to live is in cities and urban centers. To see people abandon the urban core and see regions sprawling has a cost that’s not only financial.”

Reviving blighted properties in underserved communities is a key specialty in her job with Toledo-based Mannik & Smith Group, which keeps her in Ohio and surrounding states.

 My Xavier experience helped prepare me for a career in land revitalization and restoration by offering excellent academic classes and teachers.

At Xavier Gladwell found plenty of opportunity to expand the University’s sustainability efforts and support for her desire to turn her environmental experiences into a profession. 

“I really started to see my interest in the environment as a vision for a career,” she says. “I wanted my career to be more than just a way to support myself and my family. I wanted it also to contribute to the common good.”

She credits both her academic and service experiences at Xavier for preparing her for her career.

"My Xavier experience helped prepare me for a career in land revitalization and restoration by offering excellent academic classes and teachers," she says.

"Perhaps an even bigger influence, though, were my experiences with others at the Dorothy Day House. The peace and justice-oriented programing based at the Dorothy Day House gave me an opportunity to apply scientific principles to worldly circumstances. That has evolved into a career, volunteer activities and a lifestyle that, I hope, helps make the world a better place." 

Today recycling bins are scattered all over campus, but two decades ago, Gladwell and her colleagues had to go around to individual offices and ask them to set aside used paper, then drive around in blue vans from the physical plant to collect them.

Their efforts grew into the student club EarthCare, which eventually gained recognition as club of the year. The focus expanded to programs on topics like responsible farming and how to be an environmentally aware consumer.

At the Mannik & Smith Group, Gladwell works on projects that develop abandoned or underused land in urban areas, often known as brownfields, into office space, retail, entertainment venues and housing. For instance, she helped the Toledo Mud Hens minor-league baseball team develop a funding strategy and raise funds that helped the team redevelop three vacant buildings and a parking lot into a $21 million outdoor event space and entertainment district called Hensville. It includes sustainable stormwater management that harvests rainwater from a building rooftop to irrigate an adjacent park.

Gladwell also serves on the volunteer board for the Black Swamp Conservancy, a land trust that protects farmland and open space from development, and the Toledo Design Center Center, advocating for sustainable planning and design in Toledo’s urban neighborhoods.

In the days since Gladwell went around Xavier pleading for office workers to set aside paper for recycling, she’s noticed a huge shift in the way people view and treat the environment. Even the University has stepped up its game, incorporating sustainable practices into everything from new building construction to academic instruction to reducing the waste stream.

“People want to do good and are well-intentioned, and once people understand a topic, they have a greater appreciation for environmental stewardship and sustainability,” she says. “But I think a lot of people don’t understand that urban centers are a more sustainable way of living.”