Founders of UCR Botanic Gardens give $1.3 million

Laura Nguyen/HIGHLANDER
Laura Nguyen/HIGHLANDER

Located in the Box Springs Mountains, the Botanic Gardens at UC Riverside will receive an endowment of $1.3 million from the bequest of Dr. Victor H. Goodman, a founder of the gardens, and his wife, Marjorie Goodman. The endowment will support the garden’s overall maintenance and expand plant collections.

“We are thrilled and grateful that the Botanic Gardens were remembered with such a significant gift,” said Jodie Holt, the divisional dean of agriculture and natural resources in UC Riverside’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, in a press release. “(The) generous gift will enable us to make significant progress towards realizing the long range plan and financial security of the UCR Botanic Gardens.”

The 40-acre garden, formerly known as the Life Sciences Experimental Area until 1967, first received funding from the university in 1963, when the garden first opened its doors.

As a founding member of the College of Letters and Science, Goodman was the first botanist hired by UCR’s Division of Life Sciences, which now oversees the cell biology, neuroscience, biochemistry, biology, and botany and plant sciences departments. He passed away in May 2011.

“(Goodman) didn’t know plant diversity too well, but he realized that there was a lot out there and it would be much easier to teach it if the plants were all in one place on campus,” said Dr. J. Giles Waines, UCR professor of genetics and current director of the Botanic Gardens. Waines said that he would like to see $1.1 million of the donation go toward an endowment that is already set up for the gardens and currently holds $200,000.

Since its founding, the garden has grown into a community space for relaxation and education on different plant species. “We provide a space for our students to come and study a variety of plants. Local high schools also use them for biology labs, as well as Riverside Community College,” said Waines.

Local community members established Friends of UCR Botanic Gardens in 1980 to help with the costs of development, maintenance and expansion of the gardens. With over 1,000 members, the support group obtains contributions through paid memberships and regular donations. Membership benefits include first choice at the fall and spring plant sales and a quarterly newsletter that contains articles on horticulture and upcoming botanic gardens events.

Joanna Valle, a fourth-year anthropology major recognizes the beauty of the gardens. “I come from LA (and) you don’t really see things like this out there, it’s all just concrete,” he said. “There’s so much variety (of plants out) here.”

The Botanic Gardens holds more than 3,500 plants species from around the world, four scenic trails and is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m, with the exception of federal holidays.

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