Sustainability and Service

It was a homecoming of sorts for former Carlisle resident Robyn Beavers when she returned to the area to deliver the Bigelow Lecture at Middlesex on May 1, 2012. 

Since graduating from Stanford University in 2003, Ms. Beavers has become a pioneer in the relatively new field of clean technology and renewable energy, building a successful career that not only blends her passions for engineering, sustainability, and business but that also has the potential to improve the quality of life for others. “Having an M.B.A. and working for Google may not sound like public service,” she allowed, “but public service is evolving. It does not have to be a sacrifice or something that you only do on the weekend; it can be combined with business.”

The School’s Bigelow Lecture, established in 1946 to honor and remember Roger Clayland Bigelow ’44, celebrates the virtues of public service, a career path that was a tradition in Roger’s family and that he intended to pursue until his death on Iwo Jima in March 1945. For Ms. Beavers, the fact that her everyday work involves public service makes it especially rewarding and worthwhile.

As a civil engineering major in college, Ms. Beavers was inspired by idea of creating the world’s infrastructure, from buildings and bridges to streets and subways. “All of these things make it possible for us to get around, to be safe, and to be productive,” she said. “But the way the world was built wasn’t working well anymore. I thought it needed an upgrade.”

Such thinking led to her first job as an energy efficiency consultant and then to a unique post with Google, where she served as a special advisor to its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. As Google’s first chief sustainability officer, Ms. Beavers established environmental and clean energy programs within the company, including the country’s largest corporate solar installation, which powers much of Google’s California headquarters. While subsequently pursuing her M.B.A. at Stanford, she served as a fellow for the U.S. Department of Energy. Later, following a stint at Vestas Wind Systems, Ms. Beavers joined DEKA Research & Development, where she now focuses on water and power distribution technologies.

“Every job I’ve had never existed before I entered college,” she pointed out, “and there are going to be more new opportunities out there. You don’t have to focus on what’s out there now.” Having found a meaningful and engaging career that incorporates her own passions, Ms. Beavers encouraged Middlesex students to discern what they care about most. “Be aware of what matters to you and be thoughtful about finding your first job,” she advised. “With whatever choice you make, see if you can incorporate public service into your work.”

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