The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Notre Dame graduates make a living and a difference

Tori Roeck | Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bill and Nancy Jordan, co-founders of the Let’s Share the Sun Foundation, discussed how they strike a balance between their for-profit work and charitable work in solar energy Tuesday.

Their lecture, titled “Making a Living Making a Difference,” recounted the couple’s journey to their current work with sustainability.

The Let’s Share the Sun Foundation works in conjunction with the Jordans’ for-profit business, Jordan Energy and Food Services, to harness the power of the sun for poor people around the world.

The Jordans began their lecture with a prayer.

“Lord, inspire us here tonight to create sustainability in a world of energy and food poverty,” Nancy Jordan said.

Nancy Jordan said she and her husband, both 1985 Notre Dame graduates, met through the Center for Social Concerns during their time as students.

After graduation, they both worked as Holy Cross lay missionaries in Chile, Nancy Jordan said.

While in Chile, Bill Jordan said University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh gave him advice that shaped his career.

When Hesburgh and other priests from Notre Dame came to visit the volunteers, Bill Jordan asked him about the dichotomy between the powerful representatives from Notre Dame and the poor farmers in Chile.

“He replied, ‘We want you to have this experience, and I know that service has taken Notre Dame students to the far corners of the world, much more isolated than Chile. But develop talents. Get graduate degrees. You will do more good if you learn about solar [power] and help bring it to people than if you just work with that small group of campesino farmers your whole life,” Bill Jordan said.

Since they left Chile, the Jordans said they have done what they can to change the lives of the 1.7 billion people, or 24 percent of the global population, living without electricity worldwide, while still maintaining their for-profit business.

Bill Jordan said as the global supply of oil depletes, the future of energy is in solar energy. The solar industry already grosses $6 trillion per year.

Bill Jordan said the amount of sunlight that hits the earth in an hour could power it for a year, making solar energy a key to sustainability in coming years.

“This is going to be a more dramatic change in our lifetime than the Internet revolution was,” Bill Jordan said.

The materials to harness solar energy are also inexpensive, making it a low cost alternative, Bill Jordan said.

Bill Jordan acknowledged the role young people play in the future of solar energy.

“We want to have a connection with academia,” he said. “This change in society is not going to be led by white haired guys like me at my age. This change [like that of technology] will be led by people who are the age of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.”

Students contributed to the foundation last weekend through a fundraiser hosted by the International Development branch of the Entrepreneurship Society. The Jordans were presented with a check for $1,222 that was raised through a dance held Saturday.

From an economic perspective, Bill Jordan said companies should focus on sharing energy instead of fighting for control of resources.

“We have a huge opportunity as you enter the professional world, maybe the biggest in our lives, to think about the world in terms of sharing in abundance as opposed to competing for scarcity,” Bill Jordan said.

The Jordans said their charitable work through the Let’s Share the Sun Foundation helps maintain this focus.

Nancy Jordan said she and her husband allot 10 percent of their assets to the Let’s Share the Sun Foundation. The foundation made great strides in bringing solar energy to Haiti, in particular when it partnered with the Notre Dame Haiti Program.

When Nancy Jordan visited the University’s facility in Haiti, she said she felt confident in their work.

“I said to myself, ‘This is where Notre Dame needs to be, here amongst the poor, here amongst the rubble, here making a difference and here being a sign of hope.'”