NRDC President Frances Beinecke, Yale and Stephan Schmidheiny

Frances Beinecke is the President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

She is also a member of the Beinecke family — heirs to the Sperry & Hutchinson (remember green stamps?) fortune — and a graduate of Yale College and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The Beinecke family has been generous in their donations to Yale. It is, after all, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale.

Beinecke has expressed concern about the dangers of asbestos in the past.

And now, advocates for asbestos victims want Beinecke to use her influence with Yale to strip billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny of an honorary degree.

Last year, Schmidheiny was convicted in Italy of causing an environmental disaster through his asbestos company — Eternit – that caused an estimated 3,000 deaths. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison — bumped to 18 years by an Italian appeals court.

In 1996, because of his philanthropy, Yale University awarded Schmidheiny an honorary degree.

Now, 17 years later, and in light of his conviction in Italy, a group of victims of Schmidheiny’s crimes is calling on Yale to revoke the honorary degree.

In a letter to Yale University President Peter Salovey, the Italian asbestos victims group, represented by their attorney Christopher Meisenkothen of the law firm Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, calls on Yale to rescind Schmidheiny’s honorary degree.

Barry Castleman agrees.

Castleman is a public health worker and author of Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects (Wolters Kluwer Law and Business).

Castleman testified against Schmidheiny at the trial in Italy.

He too wants Yale to strip Schmidheiny of his honorary degree.

And he wants Beinecke to weigh in with Yale on the side of the asbestos victims.

It’s been a month since Castleman approached Beinecke. Still no answer.

NRDC and Beinecke did not return calls from Corporate Crime Reporter seeking comment.

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