Donors to the nation’s number one school in landscape architecture give $180,000 through the LSU Foundation for distinguished professorship honoring Professor Emeritus and esteemed landscape architect/horticultural artist Neil G. Odenwald.
Fundraising efforts for the Neil G. Odenwald Distinguished Professorship have come to a successful close thanks to the outpouring of support from LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture alumni, faculty, and friends. Generous gifts from alumni Keith LeBlanc (BLA 1979), principal of Keith LeBlanc Landscape Architecture in Boston, Massachusetts, and Patrick Moore (BLA 1979), partner of Environmental Resources Management in Alexandria, Louisiana, rounded out the last of the donations, ensuring the stated goal of $180,000 was reached before the end of 2014—less than a year after initiating fundraising. The Robert Reich School is seeking matching funds for the professorship from the LSU Board of Regents, slating the first Neil G. Odenwald Distinguished Professorship to be awarded in 2017.
Honoring and continuing Dr. Odenwald’s scholarship and teachings, the professorship will be instrumental in recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty focused on instruction in plant materials, planting design, ecology, and natural systems, ensuring that these subjects continue their prominent placement in the landscape architecture curriculum at LSU.
“I am profoundly grateful and humbled that my former LSU students and friends have generously contributed to the professorship in my honor and in such a brief period,” Dr. Odenwald commented. “I am deeply honored to have served with a dedicated faculty and inspiring students at LSU for nearly 30 years. The Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture continues to receive national recognition for their contributions to the profession, with the undergraduate program’s ranking as first in the country and the graduate program ranked fifth. These honors attest to the quality and speak highly of the current academic program at LSU.”
Dr. Odenwald has made a significant impact on the people and gardens of the South, helping proliferate a love of plants and garden design through his frequent lectures at garden clubs, associations, professional organizations, design schools, and symposia and through his many published books, including Identification, Selection and Use of Southern Plants for Landscape Design (coauthored by James Turner), a staple in the libraries of serious gardeners. He initiated the Design School of the South, a summer program for laypeople that rotated among various cities in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Alexandria, and Monroe. As an established, leading landscape architect known for his wealth of knowledge and understanding in relation to the garden, he served as a consultant at Rosedown, Afton Villa, Biedenharn, and LongVue gardens and Bocage and Melrose plantations.
However, Odenwald will tell you that he is first and foremost a teacher who enjoys sharing his love and appreciation for plants with those who want to learn. “I loved teaching because of the students,” he said. “For me, every Monday was just as good as a Friday.”
His former students fondly recall his passion for plant materials and planting design and his support and encouragement. During his tenure as a professor (1972–97) and director (1981–90) of the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, he introduced students to such places as the Crosby and Gloster arboretums in Mississippi and Clare Brown’s Louisiana collection of natives. He convinced numerous homeowners to open their gardens to his students, and he encouraged students to visit and use resources in their own backyard, such as the LSU Hilltop Arboretum.
“Few have as much passion for plant materials and planting design as Dr. Odenwald,” recalled Professor Emeritus and Interim Director Van Cox, who received his BLA and MLA from LSU during Odenwald’s tenure. “He would often have his students act out the character of a particular specimen, which helped them remember the growth habit and design attribute for future applications.”
The professorship initiative quickly garnered support from various garden clubs, associations, and symposia due to Odenwald’s relationship with alumni and gardeners throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. The support and outreach efforts of alumni Jeff Carbo (BLA 1985) and Kurt Culbertson (BLA 1976), and of the members of the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Foundation, were particularly helpful in asking other garden-related establishments to join in honoring Dr. Odenwald.
The bulk of the support came from the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture alumni who helped raise awareness for the initiative and made generous donations themselves. René Fransen (BLA 1977) donated the first $15,000 gift and sought funding from key alumni, including Kyle Dupre (BLA 1989), who saw the value of establishing the professorship and personally identified with honoring Dr. Odenwald.
Patrick Moore, whose gift of $15,000 helped close out the initial fundraising efforts, attributes his success in leadership to the encouragement he received from Dr. Odenwald. Recognizing Moore’s talent for leadership, Dr. Odenwald and Dr. Robert Reich (the namesake of the school), nominated him as the first ever student trustee of the American Society of Landscape Architecture. Moore was chosen and served on ASLA’s national executive committee, and he helped reactivate the ASLA student chapter at LSU.
Moore said, “Dr. Odenwald instilled an understanding that the beauty of living things inspire and nurture mankind and thus create real value. This understanding of how to galvanize beauty and value has been the foundation of my thinking and leadership in landscape architecture and the Louisiana business community for the past 34 years. It is what made me stay in this state and what has kept me focused and growing from a true ‘mom and pop’ firm in 1982 to a senior partner leading sustainability, planning, and landscape architecture for an international company. Dr. Odenwald’s ability to teach, inspire, and instill leadership was a hallmark principle of what makes LSU the champion university that it continues to be.”
The administration, faculty, and students of the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture are proud to carry on with Dr. Odenwald’s teachings through the professorship in the years to come and gratefully acknowledge the support from the alumni, individuals, and corporate sponsors who contributed to the Neil G. Odenwald Distinguished Professorship. Visit design.lsu.edu/giving/support-art-and-design for more information about the college’s donors and ways to give.