Elmhurst College In Depth

The Elmhurst Arboretum

What a Difference a Single Person Can Make

With its astonishing plant variety, the Elmhurst College Arboretum is an institutional asset of surpassing value, and an inspiring environment for learning and growth.

It began as the vision of a friend and neighbor, Herb Licht.

A longtime resident of Elmhurst, Mr. Licht maintained a lifelong passion for trees. In the 1930s, he earned a degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University. In 1966, when he visited our campus to drop off his daughter, Jody, for swimming lessons, he encountered a relatively bare and unfinished landscape that was beginning to suffer the devastating effects of Dutch elm disease. Where others might have seen nothing but devastation, Mr. Licht saw opportunity. 

In the Arboretum’s first year, the College hired Ragnar Moen as its first groundskeeper. Mr. Moen shared Mr. Licht’s passion for trees, and over time the two developed and implemented an ambitious plan to transform the campus. They began by planting a small oak, brought to the campus in Mr. Moen’s station wagon. The tree still stands, some 40 feet tall now, near the Frick Center. Mr. Moen also established a nursery to grow and nurture saplings into mature trees. Together, the two made weekend trips to nurseries throughout the Midwest, and dozens, then hundreds, of trees and plants joined that oak on our campus. Today, the Elmhurst College Arboretum includes nearly 800 trees, representing more than 120 different species. Some are exotic; all are beautiful.

“When we walk by and stand under these trees, we feel some of the connection with the beauty and majesty of nature that Herb wanted to give us all,” said Bryant L. Cureton, a former president of the College. Looking at the trees on the Elmhurst College campus reminds us of what a difference individuals can make in the lives of others.

We hope that you enjoy your visit to this online version of the Elmhurst College Arboretum, and we encourage you to visit the campus to experience the Arboretum’s beauty first hand.

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