Story by Matt Marx, video by Walter Warkus, CFAES Advancement
With a passion for all that Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens brings to the community, Andy and Sandy Ross have made a transformational $3.5 million gift.
“Here you have not just a traditional arboretum,” Sandy Ross said. “It is test trials for the annuals, and you’ve got different gardens within the arboretum—the forget-me-not garden, the green roof, the therapy garden, to name a few—all of which are always near and dear to my heart. To me, Chadwick Arboretum has an incredible aura!”
Thanks to the Rosses, the community can continue to enjoy that aura and plenty of feel-good moments, in perpetuity, at Chadwick Arboretum, located on the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Lifelong central Ohio residents and Ohio State alumni, the Rosses established the Sandy and Andy Ross Endowed Chadwick Director Support Fund, which provides annual support for a director position and discretionary funds for the director. The endowment fund provides ongoing funding for Chadwick that can be used to enhance programming, support staff, and initiatives for the surrounding public gardens on the Columbus campus, which are a part of Chadwick.
Sandy visits and volunteers there whenever possible because of how the arboretum makes people feel.
“It is a beautiful, silent place where one can go to in the middle of a concrete jungle,” she said. “It makes a deep impression on a person. The trees give us shade and life-sustaining oxygen. The lake reflects serenity and calmness. The flowers and plant area give us beauty, as do the art installations. And we have the labyrinth, for calmness and meditation. So many things that one may never find in another arboretum.”
Just seeing Chadwick’s community impact within and outside the university was motivation for the gift, said Andy, a longtime supporter of Ohio State who has always loved planting trees.
“It was very impressive what they are doing there, so I have enjoyed being a part of it. It’s our state. We’re Ohioans. It’s the school we both went to, enjoyed, and learned a lot from, so that was just a natural thing,” he said.
His gifts have benefited CFAES’ rooftop garden at Howlett Hall, WOSU, and the “Solar System to Scale” planetary kiosks along West Woodruff Avenue, which stretch down Woody Hayes Lane to a representation of Pluto at Chadwick.
“Yes, I have a fondness for the university. Beautiful setting. It has a nice mixture of lots of open space, and the buildings are well thought out,” he said. “The Oval is a beautiful place.”
Sandy agrees. “We have always been Buckeyes. We will continue to be Buckeyes, and we will continue to plant buckeyes. We have a couple bottlebrush buckeye trees in our garden,” she said. “We are Buckeyes through and through.”
Describing herself as a lifelong learner, Sandy has discovered “so much opportunity and diversity” at Chadwick, she said. In addition to exploring the collections of trees, students and the public can learn to plant and care for trees through programs such as Arbo Blitz.
Also, the gardens serve as bases for workshops, the Master Gardener Volunteer program, Franklin County office of Ohio State University Extension programming, and yoga, she said. Weddings have been held under the trellis.
Another factor in their establishing the endowment was the work and enthusiasm of Chadwick Director Mary Maloney, whom the Rosses first met in 1993 when Sandy took Master Gardener Volunteer workshops, her first arboretum experience. Maloney, who was just about to go on a walk across Africa, made a bright, enthusiastic first impression that has never wavered, Sandy said.
“It has grown so much under her tutelage,” Sandy said of Maloney. “She is a people person. A very honest person. Her enthusiasm just bubbles over into everything. She has been just a joy for every volunteer to work with, and that’s why all the volunteers just stay with her for years.”
Maloney said the Rosses’ generosity ensures the presence of an arboretum at Ohio State in perpetuity.
“That transformational gift is driving an ad hoc advisory group to help us write our aspirational statement and help us recruit, and help us find our next director,” Maloney said. “It’s in our motto: ‘Time and change will surely show.’’’