The legacy of a Pennsylvania College of Technology horticulture professor who inspired thousands of students during more than three decades as a respected and award-winning faculty member continues with the dedication of the arboretum at the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center.
The Richard J. Weilminster Arboretum was unveiled Wednesday in a ceremony at the campus, a living laboratory for Penn College students.
“He has planted countless seeds in gardens and in the minds of his students,” college President Davie Jane Gilmour said. “He has planted countless trees to provide shade and beauty and understanding. He has truly left a mark on humanity through his teaching and his love of trees, gardens, nature and his students.
“It is very fitting that this place of beauty and of learning will honor this fine man, who dedicated so many years to his students and to the field of horticulture.”
Weilminster retired in 2006 after 34 years at Penn College and its immediate predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College.
“I’m blessed to have had my career here,” Weilminster said, surrounded by family, friends and former students and colleagues including Joseph G. Sick, the first director of the Earth Science Center, who hired him in 1972. “This is not just a collection of plants. What we really have here is an outdoor classroom.”
It wasn’t always so, he noted in his remarks, telling of the clayey limestone soil in which it was a “challenge to get anything to grow.” But grow it did as did Weilminster’s students, whose knowledge of plant identification and other skills expanded to fit the range of species that fill the 5-acre arboretum now named in his honor.
“My students spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in all kinds of weather,” he said. “They never had to ask, ‘Are we going to go out?’ You can almost see their footprints.”
Weilminster, too, has left an indelible impression: In 1996, he earned the college’s highest faculty honor, the Veronica M. Muzic Master Teacher Award, and the American Nursery and Landscape Association’s L.C. Chadwick Educators Award in recognition of his outstanding work with students.
“For decades, Rich has been such an integral part of the Earth Science campus that, almost everywhere you look on the grounds, are reminders of plants he used for identification classes or donations he secured for the program,” said Mary A. Sullivan, dean of natural resources management. “It’s quite fitting, then, that we continue to recognize those contributions by dedicating the arboretum to Rich.”
Weilminster also was active in the Pennsylvania Landscape Nursery Association, serving as a member of the organization’s board of directors for 21 years and receiving its highest membership honor the Frederick J. Mummert Distinguished Service Award in 2006. Appropriately, he received his award from a former student now working in the industry.
“Rich is highly recognized in his field, but I believe it was among his students that he found his greatest satisfaction,” Gilmour said, adding he maintained that commitment even in retirement. In 2006, she noted, he established the Richard J. Weilminster Scholarship Fund to benefit second-year horticulture students who have shown a passion and dedication to the profession.