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Greenville Business Magazine

Monthly musings: Furman Alum Wins Finnish Presidency, Educator Receives Environmental Award

Mar 01, 2024 09:34AM ● By David Dykes

The people of Finland went to the polls in recent weeks and on Sunday, Feb. 11, a partly sunny day in Helsinki when the temperature reached a balmy 16 degrees Fahrenheit, they elected a Furman Paladin, Alex Stubb ’93 H’17 (honorary degree in 2017), as their next president.

Stubb, a member of the mainstream center-right National Coalition Party, received 51.6 percent of the votes, outlasting his opponent, Pekka Haavisto, in a runoff. Haavisto, the current foreign minister of Finland and a member of the center-left Green Party, received 48.4 percent.

As president, Stubb’s main duties in his six-year term will be overseeing foreign and security policy, representing the country in NATO, and serving as commander in chief of his country’s military. Finland has “a semi-presidential system, a cross between a president with real powers and a party-driven parliament,” Brent Nelsen, the Jane Fishburne Hipp Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Furman, said in a Furman news release.

Stubb is the first Furman graduate to serve as a head of state. As commencement speaker in 2017, he explained that he came to Furman because his brother had studied here. At first he wanted to study business, but he quickly became interested in political science.

“Alex Stubb is a remarkable leader,” Furman University President Elizabeth Davis said in a statement. “He is an engaging and profoundly curious person with a strong moral compass that always points to doing what’s best for his fellow citizens. I’m tremendously happy for him, and proud of him. He will be an excellent president for his home country of Finland.”

Stubb’s election, Nelsen said, “is amazing! We always knew Alex was going places. I thought when he was prime minister he might have been at the top of his game, and maybe he would be elected a commissioner in the European Union.”

There weren’t significant policy differences between Stubb and Haavisto, Nelsen said. The country recently joined NATO, a move Stubb has long supported and Haavisto, as foreign minister, brokered. They both are staunchly defiant of Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. Finland, a country of just over 5 million people, smaller than Metro Atlanta, shares an 832-plus-mile border with Russia. In recent months Finland has closed the border in an attempt to control a flood of migrants from Russia.

Stubb’s advantage, Nelsen said, was his long experience in Finland’s government. Stubb served as Finland’s prime minister from 2014 to 2015, a role that focuses mainly on domestic policy. Stubb has also served as minister of foreign affairs and minister of finance, among other positions, and he was a member of the European Parliament, among other roles. He was vice president of the European Investment Bank from 2017 to 2020.

He’s also very outgoing and personable. He took to social media quickly and built large followings posting about his participation in triathlons. And, he’s seen as a family man, which appeals to the relatively conservative Finns, Nelsen said.

Stubb has always been supportive of Furman, said Nelsen, who was Stubb’s professor in several classes in the 1990s and co-authored a textbook with him. Overseas, Stubb took time to meet with students on several occasions when Nelsen took groups of students to Brussels and Italy. At the 2017 commencement, during which Furman bestowed an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree on Stubb, he thanked professors Bill Lavery, Nelsen, Ty Tessitore, Don Gordon, and Jim Guth. 

“These were the guys who instilled the notion of curiosity, academia, and a love of learning to me,” he said. He called graduating from Furman one of the proudest moments of his life. “I would not stand here (were) it not for Furman and the professors,” he said.

After Furman, Stubb studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and got a master’s degree from the College of Europe in Bruges, where he met his wife Suzanne. He later received a doctorate in international relations from the London School of Economics.

Stubb was scheduled to be inaugurated as president of Finland on March 1 in Helsinki.

Environmental award

S.C. Sea Grant Consortium educator Elizabeth Vernon Bell is the recipient of the 2023 South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award. Bell received the award Feb. 2, 2024, at a reception organized by the award’s 2023 hosting agency, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

Bell had the distinction of being nominated by not one but two independent parties for her contributions to developing a statewide certification program for environmental educators.

“Ms. Bell is just one individual – but through creative partnerships, networking and training, she’s been able to amplify positive impacts through the thousands of people she has taught and mentored over the years,” said SCDNR’s chief of staff, Shannon Bobertz, who presented the award.

Elizabeth “E.V.” Bell has worked at South Carolina Sea Grant for over 15 years, where she serves as a marine education specialist, developing and coordinating marine environmental education programs for the field and the classroom.

Bell’s career began at SCDNR’s Marine Resources Center in Charleston, where she coordinated the creation of the agency’s original boat-based curriculum aboard the Education Vessel, Discovery. She was one of the agency’s first female Coast Guard-certified captains.

At South Carolina Sea Grant, she’s been responsible for the creation of numerous programs and tools designed to connect ocean and coastal research to educators. She developed From Seeds to Shoreline, the first and only youth salt marsh restoration program in the state.

“Her programs impact not only educators, but students too – the experience E.V. gives students in the salt marshes is one they won't forget,” wrote one nominator.

As adjunct faculty at the College of Charleston, Bell has advised on graduate committees to nurture students in the development and execution of their internship or thesis. Bell currently serves on the boards of the Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), the Southeastern Coastal and Ocean Observing Regional Association, and the South Carolina Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.

But above all, it has been Bell’s role in the development of SC’s professional certification program for environmental educators—the PEEC Program—that nominators thought she was most deserving of this award. One said that this program only exists because of the vision, passion, and dedication of E.V. Bell.

Efforts to develop the PEEC Program began in 2013 when the SC Sea Grant Consortium disseminated a state-wide survey and hosted focus groups to gauge the interest and need among educators for this type of professional training. Since that time, the Consortium, in partnership with 14 educators representing organizations across the state, developed the PEEC Program.

This is a pioneering effort in the field of environmental education for South Carolina. Less than 25 percent of the states in the U.S. have a certification program like this. The inaugural class started in fall 2018, and a fourth cohort is now working on certification. 

Bell’s passion for the environment, her commitment to bringing awareness to South Carolina citizens and especially teachers, and her diligence in finding external sources of funding to supplement Sea Grant funding have led to the success and continuation of the efforts to build an environmental educators certification program for the state of South Carolina.

By creating the Palmetto Environmental Education Certification Program, Bell created a vehicle for ensuring South Carolina’s environmental educators have access to the best professional and leadership development opportunities available.

The S.C. Environmental Awareness Award was established by the legislature in 1992 to recognize outstanding contributions toward the conservation of South Carolina’s environment. The award is jointly hosted by members of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and the S.C. Forestry Commission. The committee considers several factors when reviewing nominations, including excellence in innovation, leadership, and accomplishments that influence positive changes affecting the state’s natural air, land, water and coastal resources.

Duke Energy 2023 EPS

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) announced 2023 full-year reported EPS of $3.54, prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and adjusted EPS of $5.56. This compared to reported and adjusted EPS of $3.17 and $5.27, respectively, for the full-year 2022.

Adjusted EPS excludes the impact of certain items that are included in reported EPS. In 2023, these included charges related to organizational optimization and regulatory matters along with results from discontinued operations.

Duke officials said higher full-year 2023 adjusted results were primarily driven by contributions from rate cases, growth from riders and other retail margin and lower O&M expense along with a lower effective tax rate. Those items were partially offset by higher interest expense and depreciation on a growing asset base along with unfavorable weather and electric volumes, the officials said.

The company is introducing 2024 adjusted EPS guidance of $5.85 to $6.10 and reaffirming its long-term adjusted EPS growth rate of 5 percent to 7 percent through 2028 off the 2024 midpoint of $5.98. 

Said Lynn Good, Duke Energy chair, president and chief executive officer: “We enter 2024 with a clear vision, significant momentum and an increased $73 billion, five-year capital plan that will support our energy transition and the unprecedented growth of our jurisdictions. The strength of our regulated utilities and our increasing capital profile give us confidence in our ability to deliver sustainable value and earnings growth of 5 percent to 7 percent through 2028.”