Sitting on a low, granite wall, warmed by the sun and soothed by the mulchy smell of well-tended gardens, UConn students have an extraordinary new spot on campus to meet with friends, enjoy lunch or listen to a lecture.
And that’s exactly what pharmacy alums from the class of 1978 intended. Thanks largely to a fundraising drive by the class, a modern medicinal garden has been installed in front of the School of Pharmacy building, which opened in 2005.
The class raised funds for the project based on their own fond memories of hanging out in the medicinal garden at the old School of Pharmacy building, then located next to the Student Union.
“It was a little refuge where you could sit with your friends. It was a hidden place. A lot of people didn’t know it was there,” said Barbara Deptula ’78 (PHM). “We just remember being crazy kids sitting in the old medicinal garden and have great memories of that.”
“Our class wanted to create a similar environment for the next class, the next generation, so they can experience same things we did,” she said.
In all, the class raised $82,000 to celebrate its 35- and 40-year reunions. The funds are being used to maintain the garden and provide scholarships for pharmacy students.
Designed by a Boston-based landscape architect and UConn’s Planning, Design, and Construction Department, the garden features a hardscape pattern of three linked circles. The design is based on the chemical structures of menthol and salicylic acid – one of the first pharmaceuticals isolated from plants in the modern pharmacopeia.
Tucked within and around the hardscape are lush garden beds filled with more than 40 medicinal plants such as rosemary, lavender, salvia, and sweet woodruff. Each is labeled with its common and Latin names. An accompanying garden web page describes each plant’s medicinal uses. The seasonally rotating plant display draws visitors through a winding pathway.
The garden hardscape, which includes footpath lights, also incorporates about 50 pavers inscribed with the names of class members, professors, and others who donated to the fundraiser. The UConn Foundation offered pavers or “bricks” inscribed with donors’ names, a nod to the original garden’s brick house and class’s informal theme song of the same name by the Commodores.
“A bunch of the guys in our class used to dance to ‘Brick House.’ That was like the joke song. When it would come on, they’d start dancing and singing,” Deptula said.
Andrea Hubbard, associate professor of pharmaceutical science, sees the garden as a useful stage for outdoor lectures, not only for pharmacy courses but also for classes from the School of Agriculture, ecology and evolutionary biology, and as preparation for a study abroad program on traditional Chinese medicine.