Alums, Former Caretaker Donate To Replace Aging Greenhouse

For 31 years Arlen Patrick used bailing wire, duct tape — anything he could get his hands on — to keep the Iowa State University Department of Horticulture greenhouses on central campus operational.

“This is an old structure,” Patrick (’72 horticulture) says. “It was built in 1915, and while I was working there I tried to keep the thing going as best as I could. It took a lot of TLC.”

With a facility nearly 100 years old, there are going to be a few leaks in the ceiling and cracks in the floor.

“It’s unusual for a greenhouse to last this long,” Patrick says. “It’s a testament to the original structure that it is still in use.”

In May 2010, however, the greenhouse is scheduled for demolition.

A sparkling new facility is being proposed to take its place. The new $4 million teaching and research greenhouse complex on central campus would replace the existing, aging structure.

The complex will extend to the south side of Horticulture Hall, the home of the department of horticulture. The facility will include space efficient teaching and research areas equipped with state-of-the-art environmental control and innovative plant production systems.

The greenhouse complex will be partitioned into several units or houses dedicated to research, teaching, and/or club activities. Each unit will have computerized environmental controls that will help students and researchers monitor, adjust, and maintain temperature, humidity, light at the appropriate level.

Patrick, who retired earlier this year, along with his wife Carol Patrick, an Iowa State University Foundation employee and College of Education alum, have decided to put more than blood, sweat and tears into the new facility. The couple has pledged to fund a research greenhouse, which is included in the project.

“These greenhouses have been a major part of my life,” Arlen Patrick says. “I think I understand the need for this facility more than the average person on the street.”

The Patricks say while their gift is small in comparison to the total cost of the project, it is a way they can show their appreciation for the many ways Iowa State has made a difference in their family members’ lives.

“It was our intent not only to help make this project a reality but to encourage others to help out,” Arlen says.

“We’ve given in different ways as staff members over the years,” Carol Patrick says. “For us at this time, this was the project that is near and dear to our hearts.”

“It’s not a pipe dream or superfluous project — it impacts lives and it needs to happen.”