Green strip of color

A Passion for Green

David and Suzanne Warner deepen support for graduate students of sustainability.

Growing up on a houseboat on Corte Madera Creek in Marin County—and even rowing a boat to grammar school with his brother—David Warner, BS ’76 Conservation of Natural Resources, forged an early connection to nature that fundamentally shaped his lifelong commitment to the environment. Rich in salmon, otters, crabs, and oyster beds, the creek habitat gradually became a secondary fill zone for waste dirt from local developments. “Within a period of about eight years, I watched all that wildlife become depleted,” he says. “Seeing how fast things were changing directly informed my passion for conservation and sustainability.”

David and Suzanne Warner recently established the Rausser College Graduate Student Impact Fund.

Photo by Adam Sings in the Timber.

With his wife, Suzanne Warner, BA ’78 Architecture, Warner recently created the Warner Graduate Student Impact Fund, which supports graduate students who are conducting research on sustainability and climate mitigation or adaptation. Such gifts allow Rausser College of Natural Resources to keep graduate funding packages competitive with its peer institutions.

When choosing a college, Warner was drawn to the work of Sim Van der Ryn, the UC Berkeley professor of architecture who would go on to design and build California’s first energy-efficient and climate-responsive building as state architect during Governor Jerry Brown’s first term. “I really wanted to be part of that creative ecosystem,” he remembers, “and the College of Natural Resources was the key to getting in there.” At the time, students in the College were working on projects relative to the idea of a building having a “light touch” on the environment. Warner’s high school sweetheart, Suzanne Deutsch, came to Cal two years later to study architecture and green building methods. 

In 1985, the couple founded Redhorse Constructors, a full-service residential and commercial construction company specializing in sustainable design and green technology—what Warner calls “resilient/regenerative building practices.” In addition to high-end private residences and large-scale commercial properties, the company is currently at work on several innovative new projects that include construction of a new factory for MycoWorks, a startup making fabrics from mycelium—the vegetative part of a fungus.

Redhorse is also collaborating with a multi-institutional team—including Dan Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group who was recently appointed the adviser for energy, climate, and innovation for the U.S. Agency for International Development—to create the Oakland EcoBlock, a self-sufficient grid of 30 to 40 adjoining residences that will produce close to zero net energy annually and reduce carbon emissions by 85 percent.

In addition, the Warners co-founded, with actress Connie Nielsen, the Human Needs Project: an NGO that’s building physical infrastructure for clean water and sanitation as well as social infrastructure for capacity-building in Kibera, Kenya—the second largest slum in Africa. “Our idea was to bring resources to those who have zero opportunity,” Warner says, “to build viable marketplaces and give people the power to uplift and transform their own communities.”

Closer to home, David Warner has just completed an eleven-year term on the Rausser College board. “What we did to propel the College’s mission is incredibly important to me,” he says. “When it comes to enriching and solving the big problems in our world right now, that’s just in UC Berkeley’s DNA.”

That commitment to Rausser’s mission is reflected in the new Warner Graduate Student Impact Fund. “We hope to enable graduate students to do their research without having to worry about finances,” Warner says. “We believe it’s important to have the freedom to explore, to experiment, to investigate, to analyze, and to engage.”

Learn more about how you can support our students.