Olivet Receives Arboretum Level 1 Certification

Park-like campus recognized for its diversity of tree species.

This spring, Olivet Nazarene University joined the ranks of 508 internationally accredited arboreta in the world with a Level I Certification through the Morton Arboretum’s interactive community, ArbNet.

The certification process included a self-assessment application that involved labeling the more than 25 varieties of trees within the entire 250 acres of campus, and submitting the master plan for how the physical plant team and local contractor, Beary Landscaping, continuously maintain care of the trees.

“We have always gotten compliments about the beauty of our campus so this designation may help people spend more time taking note of the trees,” said Rob Lalumendre ’12/’14 MBA, Executive Director of Facilities and Safety. “Once we realized that we already met the qualifications for certification, it was an easy recognition to pursue.”

Olivet is situated on what was once tallgrass prairie, and while not much of the original habitat remains, caretakers of the University have spent the past few decades intentionally planting trees native to the area, as well as diversifying the flora.

In the late 1990’s, former Director of Physical Plant, Matt Whitis ’94/’18 M.A., and former first lady, Jill Bowling ’70/’89 MBA, made strategic changes to the landscaping of campus. They sought to plant at least one of every native species of tree.

When asked about the project Bowling noted, “A campus environment should reflect an overall commitment to excellence to be found in every aspect of university life. Our Olivet campus provides a welcoming first impression for families, prospective students, and visitors. In addition, its beautiful campus enriches the daily lives of students, staff, and faculty.”

Their vision bloomed over the past few decades and the campus now boasts a wide variety of tree species ranging from the Ginkgo trees planted around Reed Hall of Science to the Kentucky coffeetrees in the quad to the Illinois-native oak trees that dot the campus landscape.

Over the past few years, Dr. Derek Rosenberger, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been working alongside the administrative and physical plant teams to provide counsel on how to increase sustainability and conservation practices on campus. 

“God calls humanity to care for His garden, this creation. Providing students opportunities to learn the names of trees gives students a chance to truly begin to know the components of this small bit of His garden. When we can name other living things, we can begin to care for them.

“Olivet has been taking some really significant steps in creation care on our campus, and obtaining arboretum status and thus being intentional with turning our campus itself into a living classroom and opportunity to reach out to the community is one more great step."

In the letter notifying Olivet of its Level I designation, the President and CEO of Morton Arboretum Gerard Donnelly said, “This recognition of professional standards and capabilities is an important milestone for your organization, as well as represents the advancement of goals specific to tree-focused public gardens.” He continued, “As part of the Morton Register of Arboreta, you have an important role in our shared purpose to plant and conserve trees, and accreditation in this work acknowledges your commitment to and fulfillment of professional criteria.”

Dr. Rosenberger echoed the importance of modeling intentional preservation efforts on campus.

“Obtaining arboretum status is one more initiative to add to a growing list of creation care initiatives at Olivet that include our 2.5-acre prairie restoration, our three acres of solar panels, our geothermal system in Perry Center, our high efficiency LED lighting and the Resource Recovery in Ludwig dining hall.

“Students gain a lot from seeing stewardship modeled by a Christian organization that they love and respect. This is also attractive to potential students who recognize the call to leadership by Christians in stewardship of God's good creation.”

To learn more about the register of arboreta, visit www.arbnet.org

For more information about the Department of Biological Sciences or other areas of study, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Published 3/1/22
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