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Walton Center for Planetary Health opens with goal of innovative sustainability

Rob Walton, son of the founder of Walmart and the 18th richest person in the world, and his wife, Melani, co-founded the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation

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Students, faculty and ASU donors at the ISTB7 Gand Opening Event as the light rail passes by on Monday, April 18, 2022.


The Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health, which was formerly referred to as the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7, opened its doors to tours and Earth Day-themed welcome events Tuesday. 

The building started construction in January 2019 and was projected to finish construction in December 2021.

Speakers at the grand opening of the $192 million building included President Michael Crow, ABOR treasurer Larry Penley as well as major donors, Rob and Melani Walton, who co-founded the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, whom the building is named for.

With a net worth of $65 billion, Rob Walton is No. 18 on Forbes's 2022 list of the world's billionaires. He was chair to Walmart's board of directors from 1992 to 2015, and his father, Sam Walton, was the founder of Walmart, which in 2021 was the largest retailer in the world.

In 2012, the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation committed to donating $27.5 million to ASU over five years to create programs that would contribute to solving sustainability problems, educating leaders and engaging with people globally to develop a more sustainable world.


ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the ISTB7 Grand Opening event on Monday, April 18, 2022, in Tempe.

Rob Walton is also co-chair of the board of directors of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation and is the co-chair of the board of directors at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

"We built this as both a place where we had to put more people to do more things, but also to symbolically be a place in which we can concentrate our energy on the health of the relationship with the planet, and it's helpful with us," Crow said.

The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation's collaboration with ASU is intended to show that a university with the nation's first School of Sustainability is capable of solving sustainability challenges at a local and global scale.

"It's why we talk about planetary health, which recognizes the health of our planet as a system and emphasizes the importance of the biological well-being of all life. ASU has been an incredible partner in this work," Melani Walton told ASU news.

The Walton Center for Planetary Health has many sustainable features such as an atrium with plants, an air purifier and mechanical trees that capture carbon emissions. Additionally, the building is made out of glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels that absorb and store less heat.

"What we're really celebrating today is the people. The people who work here, the people who will deliver something far more valuable to this community, as a result of their work that resulted in supply," Penley said. "The knowledge that is created at Arizona State University is derived from those who work in this wonderful facility."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which foundation Rob and Melani Walton founded. This story was updated on April 21, 2022, at 8 p.m. to correct the error.


Reach the reporter at alrami13@asu.edu and follow @byandrearamirez on Twitter.

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Andrea Ramirez

Andrea Ramirez is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press.


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