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University of Texas System Regents authorize union of The University of Texas at Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The University of Texas Board of Regents today authorized the execution of a Memorandum of Intent to make the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a component of The University of Texas at Austin.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas Board of Regents today (June 20) authorized the execution of a Memorandum of Intent to make the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a component of The University of Texas at Austin.

The Executive Committee of the center’s board of directors is expected to approve the memorandum on June 21.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Both beautiful and functional, this 43-foot tall tower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers an unobstructed view of miles of Central Texas Hill Country. Inside the tower, a huge cistern holds up to 10,000 gallons of rainwater used in the center’s gardens.
Photo: Philip Hawkins

Discussions have been under way for some time about a mutually beneficial union between the university and the nonprofit center. The plan is for the center, with its native plant education, research, outreach and demonstration programs, to become an Organized Research and Outreach Unit of the university, integrated into the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Architecture. The center includes more than 283 acres of landscapes, botanical gardens and architecturally compelling buildings in Southwest Austin.

The Memorandum of Intent will authorize the university and the center to finalize a permanent agreement that would transfer to the university the center’s assets. This includes its acreage, facilities and substantially all of the center’s endowment valued at $8.5 million.

“Such a union would be a proud and happy one for me, and, I believe, in the best interests of the center and the university,” said Lady Bird Johnson, who founded the center in 1982. “My devotion to both is complete. The university opened the doors of the universe to me. By the time I had earned two degrees, I realized that education was the beginning of a quest that lasts, and it enabled in me a greater capacity to enjoy the world. These qualities emboldened me to establish the center.”

University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. said, “The Wildflower Center was founded as a site for research and education and has become not only one of the nation’s most beautiful botanical gardens, but a leader in promoting the environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits of native plants. We see this union as one that will benefit both the university and the center.”

The center will complement resources in place at the university, including courses in botany and landscape architecture and the Environmental Science Institute. It will extend research opportunities for faculty and students through the Environmental Studies Institute and the Center for Sustainable Development.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The Lady Bird Johnson Color Garden offers a variety of seasonal interest throughout the year. The Seed Silo is pictured in the background.
Photo: Philip Hawkins

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to continue the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson and the Johnson family’s contributions to education in Texas and the nation,” said James R. Huffines, chairman of the Board of Regents. “We are deeply appreciative of this generous gift and are committed to making the Wildflower Center broadly available to students, scholars and members of the public.”

Mrs. Johnson served as a member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1971 to 1977.

Collaboration between the university and center has been under way for years through joint research initiatives, use of the Wildflower Center as a research field site, professional conferences, advisory council meetings and adjunct faculty appointments for Wildflower Center scientists.

As part of the university, the center would remain open to the public with its full range of classes, children’s activities, and art and gardening festivals. The center’s governing board would become a university advisory council, and center staff would become university employees.

The center was founded in 1982 by Mrs. Johnson and actress Helen Hayes as the National Wildflower Research Center. It was originally located in a small house on an undeveloped 60-acre plot of land off Route 973 east of Austin. In 1995, the center moved to its present site, then totaling 43 acres, and opened a complex of facilities designed as a model of total resource conservation by Overland Partners of San Antonio. In subsequent years, the center acquired an additional 236 adjoining acres. Its mission is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

For more information contact: Don Hale, The University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-3151; Saralee Tiede, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 512-292-4200, x104.