AUSTIN, Texas—The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is now officially a component of The University of Texas at Austin, with approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Committee on Strategic Planning on Sept. 5.
The center, founded by Mrs. Johnson to increase the use and conservation of native plants, has become an Organized Research Unit of the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Architecture. Staff at the center became university employees on Sept. 1.
Coordinating Board committees can give final approval for gifts of property valued between $10 and $25 million. The Wildflower Center is valued at $19.7 million.
“Connecting the Wildflower Center more closely with the teaching and research programs at The University of Texas will enrich and strengthen both organizations,” said Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “We in Natural Sciences are very excited about the new opportunities this merger reveals. My faculty are already in meetings with the Wildflower Center staff exploring possibilities, and I think our colleagues in Architecture are similarly engaged.”
“This is wonderful news for the School of Architecture,” Dr. Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture, said. “The collaboration with the Wildflower Center will help advance our academic programs in landscape architecture, community and regional planning and sustainable development. The union of the university and the center will be mutually beneficial.”
The Wildflower Center board approved the final master agreement on Aug. 28. The board now becomes an advisory council headed by Lynn Meredith of Austin that will provide fundraising and other support for the center.
The master agreement transfers the Wildflower Center assets, including 279 acres, numerous buildings, an endowment and intellectual property, to the university. A small fund will be retained by the center for contingencies.
“Becoming part of one of the nation’s great universities opens up wonderful opportunities for the center’s research and education programs,” said Executive Director Susan Rieff. “We are so proud that we are able to achieve Lady Bird Johnson’s longstanding dreams for the center.”
The Wildflower Center will continue to be open to the public, and to operate on its own revenue. The agreement specifies that the center shall be used only for purposes that further its mission, such as:
- Educational, outreach, research and horticultural programs designed to increase the sustainable use of native wildflowers and plants
- Operating a demonstration site for native plant horticulture and research and for ecologically sound, regionally appropriate architecture
- Developing educational materials on native plants.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents authorized the university and center to proceed with the union on June 20.
The center was founded in 1982 by Mrs. Johnson and actress Helen Hayes as the National Wildflower Research Center. In 1995, the center moved to its present site at 4801 La Crosse Avenue and opened a complex designed as a model of total resource conservation. The center and its gardens are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.