As a former summer intern with Duke Energy — one of the largest power companies in the country — Eliza Roberts, ’11, was eager to attend a lecture by its CEO, Jim Rogers, on the University of Richmond campus.

Rogers spoke about the importance of creative cooperation in the energy future at the invitation of former Gov. Tim Kaine, senior distinguished lecturer on law and leadership. In addition to his 22 years as an energy executive, Rogers worked for the Carter and Reagan administrations. In 2009, Newsweek magazine included him on its Global Elite list of the 50 most powerful people in the world.

His appearance marked the inaugural speech in the University’s newest auditorium, part of the Queally Hall addition to the business school.

“I thought Jim Rogers was a great person to be the first speaker in the Ukrop Auditorium; he did not dwell on the past, but instead proposed a challenge for the future,” says Roberts, whose experience with Duke Energy and self-designed major in environmental business provided her with a particular insight on Rogers’ ideas.

Rogers left audience members with a hopeful attitude toward what the U.S. can achieve in the future. He emphasized the role of international collaboration in order to keep the U.S. from falling behind in the clean energy movement.

“The details may be different, but we have faced and conquered such challenges before, with great benefits to society,” says Tricia Dunlap, L’11. “Jim is absolutely correct in his belief that we must implement low-carbon and carbon-free technologies in order to continue to draw global investment capital and create the economy of the 21st century.”

This semester, Dunlap studied Duke Energy’s climate change strategy as part of a course taught by Joel Eisen, professor of law. Duke Energy supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 4 million customers in the Carolinas and the Midwest and natural gas in Ohio and Kentucky. Its commercial power and international businesses operate power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a growing renewable energy portfolio.

“Jim Rogers clearly articulated both the challenges and the opportunities for America that are inherent in the global shift to a clean economy,” says Dunlap.

Roberts adds, “Whether this is through innovative energy technology developed as part of our nation's cleaner energy portfolio, or through the choices of private consumers, the end result is a future with fewer emissions than today.”

“It was a very uniting message,” says Roberts, “that as a world, as a country, and as a university, we all face challenges to be more energy efficient and to be a leader in clean energy in our respective communities.”