UIW Celebrates Earth Day

May 2, 2024
UIW hosted its annual Earth Day celebrations on Monday, April 22 with various activities that helped inform students and community members about how to be environmentally conscious and consider how to create a more sustainable future for all.

The day kicked off with the 10th annual UIW Earth Fair, in which organizations and small businesses tabled in the West Gate Circle. Local and campus organizations such as the San Antonio Composting Project, UIW Sustain and the Bexar Audubon Society gathered to spread awareness about how to create a positive environmental impact within the school and local communities.

“Learning from the over 20 local organizations at the Earth Fair, students broadened their understanding of sustainable lifestyles in a low-stakes environment,” said Dr. Benjamin Miele, chair of the Sustainability Advisory Board, which helps to coordinate Earth Day and other eco-friendly campus activities and projects.

Following the fair was the presentation of the William Mulcahy Award for Ecological Stewardship. Created in 2007 to honor the dedication and leadership shown by then grounds superintendent, William "Bill" Mulcahy, this award recognizes students, faculty and staff who have exemplified Bill's commitment to ecological conservation and care of creation.

This year’s honored recipient was Sr. Marth Ann Kirk, CCVI. Throughout the years, Sr. Martha Ann has contributed to the University’s and city’s environmental efforts by funding the San Antonio Stephen Lucke Community Garden, which has spawned seven community gardens and recycling centers across UIW campuses. She has led study abroad trips centered on ecological justice for over 35 years, supported Sustainability Studies students through the service-learning showcase and is an original member of the UIW Sustainability Advisory Board.

“Sr. Martha Ann Kirk is the beating heart of sustainability at UIW,” expressed Miele. “Her recognition was long overdue, and I cannot think of a more deserving awardee for the Mulcahy award, which recognizes a lifetime of achievements in being a good steward of creation.”

A genuine and proud smile spread across Sr. Marth Ann’s face upon receiving the award. Upon accepting her award, she reminisced on memories of her parents, Ada Koenig Kirk and Bert Ambers Kirk, and the rest of her family. Ada had a history with UIW, then known as Incarnate Word College, where she too demonstrated immense love for the Earth when she worked at the college in the 1940s. Now, Sr. Martha Ann and her family endow “The Good Earth” scholarship for a UIW student involved in sustainability in honor of her parents.

“We hope that our teeny gesture may prompt others to build sustainability studies here at the University,” remarked Sr. Martha Ann.

After receiving her award, Sr. Martha Ann was joined by UIW alumni Isaac “Papa Bear” Cardenas, Kona of the Tap Pilam Nation, and Jesse Borrego, award-winning Mexican American actor and UIW alumna, in a moving performance that explored the stories of their contrasting ancestors – the Apache people and the settlers.

“Recognizing that our ancestors were gifted with land and that they cherished the beauty of creation, we wish to promote studies for clean water, food, air and earth. We wish to promote compassion for all living creatures and the earth itself,” said Sr. Martha Ann.

The Earth Day celebration concluded with a presentation from Dr. Pride Abongwa from Texas A&M San Antonio, who spoke about “Our Renewable Energy Future.”

“Dr. Abongwa’s presentation for the second annual Sustainability Studies lecture series provided a thorough overview of the many renewable energy options at our disposal,” explained Miele. “Many governments seek to triple their renewable energy capacity, and that can only be done with more education, more communication about the benefits of renewables and more engagement from the community at large.”

UIW's Earth Day celebration proved not just a day of festivities, but a testament to the power of both collective action and individual commitment to our planet. With each word spoken and each gesture made, a message resonated clearly: the Earth is not just our home, but our shared responsibility.