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  • Jillian de la Motte

The Most Magical Place on Earth: The Arboretum at Penn State



Peace and serenity: two words that describe my favorite place here at Happy Valley. I remember the first day I went to check out Penn State’s very own, Arboretum. I was so overwhelmed with all of its beauty. I can recognize that beautiful pond filled with water lilies and those white arches opening up to an amazing outlook any day. The Arboretum is located on the Northeast side of campus right by the Business Building and Penn State Law Building.


arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, fountain

During my freshman year of college, I would walk over to the Arboretum all the time. At the time, being a freshman at Penn State was overwhelming and when I went there, I felt a sense of belonging and peace. This is one reason out of many as to why the Arboretum resonates with me and hits close to home. The Arboretum serves many purposes even though it is just an “outlook”. I go here to escape reality for a short period of time. Whether that be doing homework, eating dinner there, or just walking around, the Arboretum really knows how to make my day.

arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, website

Before interviewing anyone specific, I wanted to educate myself about this unique place. I stumbled upon their website which told me how it all started. The website informed me that in 1914 Penn State “set aside land for an arboretum”. Penn State realized what they wanted to do to this land would not be able to be done under their financials, so private philanthropy helped them out and made this vision become a reality. The website reads, “In 2007, Charles H. Smith stepped forward with a lead gift of $10 million to name the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens, honoring Mr. Smith’s father and fellow Penn State alumnus” due to this donation, Penn State was able to start construction in 2009. The tree below is a Hosler Oak that was transported from Lititz, Pennsylvania. After reading a little about the history of Penn State’s Arboretum, I realized that Penn State would not go through with their plan until everything was perfected which makes me appreciate it even more.


arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, tree

After educating myself on the history of the Arboretum, I decided to keep exploring the website to see what else I could find. I found a tab that reads “Staff” and thought this was the perfect place to find my interviewee. I found out that Penn State’s Arboretum has different committees behind it. The Arboretum consists of six committees which are the Steering Committee, the Design Committee, the Collections Committee, the Avian Education Advisory Committee, the Prairie Restoration Advisory Committee, and the Gerhold Wildflower Trail Advisory Committee. I decided to interview a woman by the name of Kate Reeder. Her position is the Event and Marketing Coordinator which I found very interesting. I reached out to her over email and she got back to me right away.


I asked her to explain her position and how she got involved with it. She told me that her position consists of coordinating events that occur at the Arboretum. On the website it reads, “she is responsible for activities such as academic receptions, reunions, and weddings”. I thought this was interesting because I did not know that the Arboretum held events for personal reasons. She said that this is hands down her dream job explaining that she is happy to still be in State College and that she loves her job. She knew she wanted to be an Event and Marketing Coordinator, but being able to do so at a place that she adores makes it even better.


I could tell that she has an immense love for this place after I asked the question, “What is the most memorable event that has happened at the Arboretum?” She responded with “every day”. Kate Reeder said that she thinks this place was the best thing to happen to Penn State. She states that it brings people together without them even realizing it. Reeder said that she believes the Arboretum has served such a great purpose throughout the pandemic. She brings up a good point and says that during these times it seems that there isn't much for us to do, but the Arboretum is still open. She says that the Arboretum has such a bigger meaning nowadays. She often sees people going to the Arboretum to just relax and get their minds off of what the world is really like right now.


arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, pond

I was interested to see how Kate Reeder was going to answer my next question which was, “Why do you believe the Arboretum is so special compared to other outlooks?” Reeder started off by saying that the Arboretum, unlike the other outlooks in this area, is directly related to Penn State. “As a Penn State alumni, this is very special to me,” she states. But she realized she could not be too biased and said “it’s just beautiful and I believe no other place can compare to its beauty”. She also added that the amount of time and effort that went into this project can’t be forgotten. On the Arboretum’s website, there is a timeline and important dates with a description underneath each year. The timeline starts in 1907 and reads, “The Board of Trustees accepts the first campus development plan, created by New York City landscape architect Charles Lowrie. In addition, to a system of roads, sidewalks, and buildings in a landscaped environment, the plan proposes maintaining the large stands of trees around campus and creating a botanical garden.” I think it is amazing how a dream became a reality with this outlook. Not only is the Arboretum beautiful, but it holds so much history that is important and interesting to know if you are a Penn State student, or even live in the area for that matter.

arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, map

For my last question, I asked Kate Reeder why she believes people love and can connect with the Arboretum so much. Reeder explains that she believes that it is a sense of unity. Again, the Arboretum is related to Penn State, so students go there knowing it is a familiar place and hope to see familiar faces. It is something that students can relate to and connect to. She also explains that when you are here you feel wanted and understood.


Reeder explains that she sees many Penn State alumni come back and take a stroll through the Arboretum. “This place resonates with many people for different personal reasons,” she said. This resonated with me, I am only a junior and feel like I have specific memories that have taken place at the Arboretum. Those experiences will forever be with me and remind me of such a special place. In addition, when I told my roommates that I was writing a blog about the Arboretum, they all seemed to have their personal and specific memories or experiences here as well. What Kate Reeder is saying is that when you have these personal experiences that are special to you, you will not forget them and many people have that interaction with the Arboretum.



arboretum, nature, calm, beauty, tree

It is difficult to put into words how special this place is if you have not been there before. The first time I went to the Arboretum, I was truly breath taken. I had so much pride in the fact that I went to Penn State without even knowing the history or about the place for that matter. I believe that everyone in the surrounding area should give the Arboretum a visit at least once. It is more than just an outlook, Kate Reeder brings up the point that you feel a sense of unity here. It reminds you to be humble and to appreciate the world around you. Sometimes I believe we lose touch with reality and forget to remind ourselves about these little things. That is the beauty of places like this one.


Written by Jillian de la Motte

Edited by Lexie Hosterman

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