The University Record, June 21, 1999

Reader Center will ‘allow us to do our job better,’ Morton says

By Jane R. Elgass

James and Helene Reader and their daughter, Barbara, celebrated the senior Readers’ 50th wedding anniversary at ceremonies dedicating the James C. Reader Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center in the Arboretum June 13. The Center honors James Jr., an Ohio teacher and coach who was killed in an automobile accident. The Center is in historic Burnham House, which was moved to the Arboretum in February 1998. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Guests at the June 13 dedication of the new environmental education center in the Arboretum were encouraged by Bill Browning to take themselves and their children and grandchildren outside so they could experience “the awe and marvel that the natural world provides us.”

Browning, of the Ann Arbor Schools, has worked for 28 years with an environmental education program that was set up by William Stapp, professor emeritus of resource planning and conservation. “Many of our children know more about plants and animals in other countries,” he noted, and “need to develop respect for what is around them.”

Field trips, including some to the Arboretum, are an important feature of the program that Stapp developed.

The dedication and grand opening of the James C. Reader Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center, attended by the Reader family and other supporters of the Arboretum and the Center, were part of Arbfest ’99. And the stormy weather held off long enough for the outdoor ceremony that featured remarks also by Stapp; Harrison Morton, director of Nichols Arboretum and associate dean, School of Natural Resources and Environment; President Lee C. Bollinger; and Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon.

Morton characterized the dedication as a “significant and historic event” for the Arboretum that will help support its mission of education and educational opportunities for U-M students, local school children and members of the general community.

Some 50–60 U-M courses use the Arb, and the need for some sort of facility was identified by graduate students 15 years ago, Morton explained. The Reader Center, he said, “will help us meet our goal of offering more environmental education and allow us to do our job better.”

The center is named in honor of the Readers’ son James Jr., an Ohio school teacher and coach who was killed in an automobile accident. It is located in Burnham House, an 1830s Ann Arbor home that was moved to the Arb from its location on Wall Street in February 1998. Burnham House is located just inside Washington Heights entrance.

Visitors to Arbfest ’99 on June 13 were able to enjoy the peony garden between the raindrops. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Stapp noted that home life, schools, community programs and the media all play a role in shaping children’s views of the environment. Children are future voters who will shape environmental and related legislation through their votes, he noted. “It is imperative that we educate them to be more sensitive to the environment and able to recognize problems.”

The Reader Center, he explained, will be able to develop programs about the environment for young learners. “The foundation has to be laid when they are young,” he said.

“Nichols Arboretum No. 1,” a piece for strings that was commissioned by the Arboretum and written by School of Music student Gabriela Frank, was performed at the dedication by a quartet that included Liza Zurlinden and Justin Maclean, violin; Robert P. Meyer, viola; and Christine Chu, cello.

Other Arbfest ’99 events included the annual viewing of the Peony Garden, which has more than 700 plants; docent-led tours of various areas in the Arboretum; an exhibition of Arboretum and Huron River paintings by Martha Keller, professor of art; stories by professional story-teller and U-M graduate Greg Harris; and an activity tent for children.