Sandy McDade ’74, senior vice president and general counsel of the Weyerhaeuser Company, returned Thursday to his alma mater to discuss “The Potential for Trees” — the role of forests in the carbon cycle — in the annual William M. Allen-Boeing Lecture delivered at Gaiser Auditorium.

A mixed audience of students, faculty, administration and alumni heard McDade talk about an environmental paradigm by which “we preserve and grow the world’s forests while employing our working forests in new and more productive ways.” He also addressed the economic challenges of implementing such a paradigm in today’s global society.

McDade used data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to document the overarching crisis of global deforestation. Sustainable management of forests, he said, is best accomplished by third-party certification of forest practices “based on standards relating to harvesting, replanting, and other aspects of forest management.”

Turning his attention to climate change, McDade acknowledged that there is “little debate” that carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere. “Here is the famous J curve showing what people are worried about, the data on temperatures over the last 1,000 years,” he said, letting a PowerPoint slide do the explaining.

Part of the solution to climate change, McDade maintained, is the use of wood products. “It is well understood and accepted that, through the process of photosynthesis, trees store carbon,” he said. “What is less often discussed is the fact that wood products manufactured from the forest also continue to sequester carbon.”

"You can build about five houses with wood for every four houses you build with steel or concrete,” he noted.

Where trees figure into environmental solutions, patience is required, McDade said. “In our industry the act of planting a tree is necessarily a long‑term belief,” he said. “We won’t harvest that tree for 20, 30 or 40 years. How many of you would wait 40 years to see if an investment you made today contributed to the growth of your 401(k) plan? Or for students . . . how many of you would be willing to spend a year on a college curriculum you are absolutely sure will have no value to you until you are over 60? Too many companies are being forced to chase the short-term payoff at the expense of the longer-term solution.”

The Boeing Lecture is made possible each year by the William M. Allen-Boeing Endowment established by Grant ’50 and Nancy Allen Silvernale ’56 and Nat ’55 and Dorothy Allen Penrose. The endowment provides funds for distinguished individuals in industry, finance, technology and manufacturing to speak at Whitman.

Before his current appointment at Weyerhaeuser, McDade served as senior vice president for the company’s operations in Canada.  He was a member of the Weyerhaeuser Company Law Department for 20 years, serving as assistant general counsel. His legal work focused on corporate transactions, financing and securities law. 

McDade majored in political science at Whitman. He received his law degree, cum laude, from Seattle University in 1979.


Keith Raether
Office of Communications
Whitman College