Greenhouse gets greener

Ian Renne (left) and Thomas Diggins (right) discuss greenhouse upgrades. Photo by Henry Shorr / The Jambar

By Henry Shorr

The greenhouse in Ward-Beecher hall was recently renamed the Sandy Simon Greenhouse after a large donation from the Simon estate to the university.

The Simon family donated Sandy Simon’s farm to the school after her passing with the directive that it should be sold and the proceeds of that sale should go to the Youngstown State University’s greenhouse.

Simon, who grew up in Liberty, owned and operated the Double S Ranch in Vienna, Ohio. The estate’s donation in the care of the greenhouse was primarily due to Simon’s love of herbs. Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, spoke on why the Simon estate believed this to be an appropriate place for her donation.

“She was a woman who loved the outdoors. She loved nature. She had her own greenhouses and what an appropriate and wonderful legacy to her life and to her interest; to improve the greenhouse to benefit generations of students here at YSU,” McFadden said.

He also expressed how involved the Simon family has been throughout the process of renovating this greenhouse. He explained that Jeff Simon — Sandy Simon’s nephew — has worked closely with the school and the YSU Foundation to see this rejuvenation occur and was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the greenhouse. Michael Simon, Sandy’s brother, also has a close relationship with the university and helped create the connection between the school and the estate.

McFadden also described how the money was allocated to renovate the space. The HVAC and ventilation systems were upgraded, and money was also spent beautifying the greenhouse’s entryway. He said while it used to look “pretty shabby,” the space now looks more presentable. 

The press release from the YSU Foundation went deeper into where the money went, stating the most important upgrade to the greenhouse was the renovation of the third bay, known as the “research-ready chamber.”

Ian Renne, an associate professor in the ecology department, believes the increased capacity for research is the most important improvement for students and faculty.

“It has greatly improved our capacity for research,” Renne said. “Stepping into [the research-ready chamber], it is very comfortable throughout the year. Very, very good regulation of the conditions, making it conducive for research projects.”

For more than 16 years, students and faculty have not been able to conduct research inside the facility, an important aspect of a university greenhouse. The press release highlighted how this will not only allow for hands-on training for students but will creates increased reproduction of native flora that can bolster community gardens and production in the area. 

Renne also spoke about the community projects that have taken place in the greenhouse.

“We’ve had the YESS group partake in community garden projects. Some of those projects are actual vegetables that are grown. Some of that — and I would say that I have done this to a considerable extent — is grown plants, native plants for the public,” Renne said.

YSU President Jim Tressel spoke on how instrumental McFadden was in creating the bond with the Simon family and how symbiotic the relationship has been.

“[McFadden] noticed, when he was out, they were lovers of growing things and you know, that type thing. Plus they were lovers of education. And so when he kind of made the suggestion that we could take the best of both worlds and upgrade Greenhouse on campus, the same family was all in,” Tressel said.

Tressel also expressed how lovely it was to see the renovation bring members of the Simon family from all over the country to YSU to celebrate the opening of the improved greenhouse on June 9. 

Renne also highlighted that you do not need to be an ecology or STEM student to make use of the Sandy Simon greenhouse, and the addition has added even more space for the work there.

“It is available for various projects. If students are interested, they don’t have to be part of an organization. They could just be interested in some type of activity that involves growing plants. They would contact me, but chances are that space would currently be available. There are certain times where we’ve been really spaced limited. The renovation increases our space by 50%. So it is it’s a great addition, the renovation,” Renne said.

For information about the greenhouse or availability, reach out to Ian Renne in the ecology department. 

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