April: Campus Landscaping

Larry D. Moore. Calhoun Hall on the University of Texas at Austin campus in Austin, Texas, United States, 2014, Wikimedia Commons, LCC BY-SA 3.0.

The vibrant campus landscaping of today has roots in the work of John William Calhoun —a 1905 graduate of UT who served as president ad-interim (1937–1939). Calhoun was also the university comptroller from 1925 to 1937. At that time, the comptroller’s duties included management of “residence halls, boarding houses, university lands,” etc.[1] As comptroller, Calhoun created the University’s horticulture landscape strategy, in which he detailed the position of trees, plants, and landscapes on campus.[2] This horticulture landscape has shaped the University’s modern landscape framework.

Calhoun planted the first of the University’s many oak trees. Observing that the passage on the south side of Sutton Hall was in need of shade, Calhoun relocated four oak trees from Pease Park and placed them in the area around Sutton Hall. After assessing the positive impact of the oak trees on campus landscaping, Calhoun approached the University about planting more oaks. The University agreed, and he was able to oversee the planting of over 100 oak trees on the South and West Malls during his time as comptroller.[3] In 1942, Calhoun published Trees on the Campus of the University of Texas, in which he determined that an “aggregate [of] four hundred and twenty-six” oak trees had been planted on the expanding UT campus, which extended at the time from 26th Street to the north, 21st Street to the south, Guadalupe Street to the west, and Red River Street to the east.[4]

After his death in 1947, the University of Texas Regents honored Calhoun by naming one of the South Mall’s ‘six-pack’ buildings after him in 1960. The building was completed in 1967 surrounded by oak trees that Calhoun had planted as comptroller.[5] Nearly all the trees established by Calhoun on The University of Texas campus are still standing.

Today, the University of Texas’s Landscape Services Department is responsible for campus landscaping. The Department exists to “maintain a safe, sustainable, and beautiful landscape” on the Forty Acres.[6] Since 2009, the Office of Sustainability has collaborated with the Landscape Services Department to create a beautiful and sustainable campus. 

The University of Texas has celebrated Earth Day since 1970, following the creation of “SCOPE, the Student Committee on Pollution of the Environment,” which worked with faculty and staff to promote sustainable practices around campus.[7]

[1] https://txarchives.org/utcah/finding_aids/03316.xml

[2] https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/calhoun-john-william

[3] https://jimnicar.com/tag/john-calhoun/

[4] https://maps.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ut_austin/university_of_texas-1941.pdf

[5] https://www.utsystem.edu/sites/default/files/offices/board-of-regents/files/NamingsforWeb.pdf

[6]  https://facilitiesservices.utexas.edu/divisions/support/landscape-services

[7] https://sustainability.utexas.edu/history