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Accelerating Global Sustainability and Energy Innovation

The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern has been renamed for alum Paula M. Trienens.

Michael R. Wasielewski stands with two students in front of a large array of solar panels.
Michael R. Wasielewski, center, is co-executive director of the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy, where he leads research on solar energy. Image: Shane Collins

Fall 2023

A transformative grant from the Howard and Paula Trienens Fund will advance global sustainability and energy solutions at one of Northwestern’s flagship research institutes. The grant from the Trienenses’ donor-advised fund was recommended by University Trustee Nan Trienens Kaehler ’79 MS and Thomas R. “Kip” Trienens, siblings who were inspired by their late mother’s dedication to environmental stewardship.  

The largest philanthropic contribution ever made to the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), the grant will provide critical investment in research, education and engagement for climate science, and the energy transition and the development of resilient communities. In recognition of this extraordinary generosity, the University has renamed ISEN the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy 

Howard and Paula Trienens.

In allocating funds to the institute, Nan and Kip chose to honor their mother’s dedication to the natural world. Paula M. Trienens ’47 cared deeply about conservation efforts, supporting organizations such as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Field Museum and Glencoe Garden Club.  

“Mom was concerned about environmental degradation and climate change,” Nan says. “She would be thrilled to have her name connected to her alma mater and its efforts to find future solutions beyond the constraints of current knowledge.”  

The institute has a well-established track record of innovation across Northwestern, including a history of leading federal energy research hubs, an undergraduate certificate and professional master of science degree in energy and sustainability, and a global portfolio of partnerships with corporate, nonprofit and nongovernmental institutions.  

“In order to accelerate equitable climate change solutions, we must drive discovery and education across diverse fields of inquiry,” says Michael R. Wasielewski, co-executive director of the Trienens Institute. “The Trienens grant significantly amplifies our capacity to advance meaningful solutions that support the future of all life on Earth.” 

Kip encourages others to join his family in bolstering the Trienens Institute’s work. “Students and faculty alike want the University to lead, and with your support, Northwestern can be the premier academic institution addressing sustainability and energy,” he says. 

“Together, we can safeguard life on Earth for current and future generations.”  

The Trienens family’s philanthropy has benefited numerous areas across Northwestern. 

Nan and Kip’s father, the late Howard J. Trienens ’45, ’49 JD, ’95 H, was chair of the Northwestern Board of Trustees. He was awarded the Northwestern Alumni Medal in 1996.  

Paula Trienens was founder and president of the Northwestern University Women’s Board and also served on the board of The Alumnae of Northwestern University and the Medill Advisory Board. She received the Northwestern Alumni Association Service Award in 1978.  

Nan Trienens Kaehler joined the Northwestern Board of Trustees in 1999 and serves on the Northwestern University Women’s Board. She and her husband, Wallace W. Kaehler, have supported the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine and The Garage 

Kip Trienens supports areas of Northwestern such as Weinberg College, the McCormick School of Engineering and the Morton Schapiro Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools. 

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