Keisha Payson Wins Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff

By Bowdoin News
As director of sustainability for more than twenty years, Keisha Payson has spearheaded the College’s efforts to be a responsible steward of the environment.

Her citation notes the “deftness, passion, and genuine care” with which Payson has “changed the trajectory of Bowdoin’s environmental impact, while at the same time inspiring generations of students to pursue sustainability, conservation, stewardship, and social justice in their own lives, careers, and communities.”

Her work and influence has touched every corner of campus. Since assuming her current role in 2001, Payson has been instrumental in implementing scores of sustainability measures, large and small—from single-stream recycling and food waste diversion to solar arrays and green building practices. As chair of the Sustainability Implementation Committee, she led the College’s historic drive toward carbon neutrality, achieving that profoundly significant goal two years ahead of schedule in 2018.

Payson has worked with countless individual students and student groups to transform Bowdoin’s campus culture of sustainability, by engaging, guiding, and encouraging students to develop and champion their own initiatives. Early in her Bowdoin tenure, she implemented one of the first EcoRep programs in the country, and students she mentored have gone on to design and lead programs such as Greenstock and tray-less dining that have deeply impacted the campus community. As one former student noted, “Keisha empowered me to help make a difference at Bowdoin and helped inspire my path in the environmental field as an alum.”

Indeed, the testimonials from former students regarding Payson’s influence are voluminous and effusive, referring to her “creativity, intelligence, dedication, and vision” and calling her “an inspiration to me and many students on campus.” One former student noted that she “lovingly lace[s] Bowdoin facilities, administration, and students into one team, propelling us all towards a more sustainable future.” Another named Payson as “a wonderful mentor,” explaining that her “guidance helped me find my career path working with communities to achieve their climate and sustainability goals and fighting climate change by supporting action at the local level.” The student added, “She’s a hero!”

She will be formally presented with the award at Reunion Convocation Ceremony, on Saturday, June 1, 2024.