Sister Claire Whalen honored as ‘Hoosier Resilience Hero’

Oldenburg, In. — In celebration of Earth Week, Claire Whalen, a Franciscan nun of the Convent of the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, has been named a Hoosier Resilience Hero by the Environmental Resilience Institute, founded as part of Indiana University’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative.

While traveling the state as ERI’s assistant director of policy and implementation, Janet McCabe, former acting assistant administrator for air quality with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, has met many Hoosiers dedicated to preparing Indiana for environmental change. The Hoosier Resilience Heroes recognition honors the important contributions of just a few of these residents.

“Indiana is full of individuals—in every corner of the state and from every age and walk of life, including government, academia, business, and nonprofits—who are working to make Indiana more resilient in the face of environmental change, and who are making Indiana residents safer and healthier now and for generations to come,” said McCabe. “We are thrilled to recognize these Hoosier Resilience Heroes and lift up their work to inspire us all.”

These ten individuals were recognized as Hoosier Resilience Heroes:

  • Shikha Bhattacharya, director and founder, ReTHink, Inc.
  • Jessica Davis, director, IUPUI Office of Sustainability
  • John Gibson, board of directors, Earth Charter Indiana
  • Julia McKenna, senior, John Adams High School
  • Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, junior, Purdue University
  • Reed Rouch, senior, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School
  • Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley, city forester, City of Goshen
  • Jennifer Tank, professor of biological sciences, University of Notre Dame
  • Leah Thill, senior environmental planner, Michiana Area Council of Governments
  • Sister Claire Whalen, chair, Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission

Sister Whalen has committed a large part of her life to environmental causes. She has a strong desire to help people in her area of the state understand the climate crisis and ways they can work to mitigate the impacts. In her retirement, she chooses to promote sustainable living on our planet Earth, especially in the food and energy sectors.  Known for her work at Michaela Farm and with the Food and Growers Association, Sister Whalen is currently focusing her volunteer efforts on climate change impacts. In 2017 and 2018, she led the Solarize Indiana Southeast initiative, educating residents to install solar; 35 installations were completed at homes and businesses.  In addition, Sister Whalen leads the Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission to study how their community could move quickly to reduce its carbon footprint in the coming decade. This summer, the Commission will complete a greenhouse gas inventory for the town of Oldenburg, IN, through participation in the Environmental Resilience Institute’s 2019 Resilience Cohort. Furthermore, Sister Whalen regularly advocates for environmental causes to her governmental representatives and encourages others to do the same.

“These individuals are making an important difference every day in Indiana,” said Ellen Ketterson, director of the Environmental Resilience Institute.  “In my view, they are true heroes.”

Read about all of the 2019 Resilience Heroes on the Environmental Resilience Institute’s website.