Eileen Bergt is taking off the gardening gloves and digging into the historic roots of Dear Old Nebraska U’s picturesque planting beds.
The seedy details will be the focus of “Growing a Campus: Landscapes at the University of Nebraska,” a free, open-to-the-public talk at 3:30 p.m. June 19 in the Love Library Auditorium. The presentation is part of the Nebraska Lectures: Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker series, which has expanded to feature 12 talks celebrating the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s 150th anniversary.
Bergt, who serves as landscape architect and assistant director of landscape services, will discuss a wide-swath of campus garden history — covering from initial plantings around University Hall, the first building on campus, to modern greenspaces.
“My hope is that people who attend or listen to the lecture will get a new appreciation for the beauty of campus landscapes through the history of the university and a better understanding of the amount of work it takes to care for a campus covering more than 671 acres of greenspace,” Bergt said.
Some topics to be covered include:
William H. Dunman, who served as the university’s landscape gardener from 1906 to his death in 1946. Originally from England, Dunman has a love for tropical plants that shows in some early campus photos;
the legacy of Charles E. Bessey, who came to Nebraska in 1884 to be a professor of botany and horticulture. His studies of native plants have heavily influenced the campus landscape;
the work that has gone into creating some of the university’s most iconic spaces; and
a mini-exploration of historic campus trees.
Bergt’s appreciation for the outdoors is rooted in years spent working on the family farm near Schuyler — though she didn’t realize her passion until college.
“My job growing up was to milk the cows with dad,” Bergt said. “There were many other chores, but I just loved being outside — especially when it was time to get the cows from the pasture with help from our dog, Rex.”
In college — first at a community school near Schuyler, then at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — Bergt decided to pursue a degree in architecture. However, in her fourth year as a Husker, a class in outdoor site planning spurred Bergt to branch out her studies.
“Before I took that course, I had no idea there was a profession dedicated to landscape architecture,” Bergt said. “I could have graduated, but instead I stayed another semester to take some horticulture classes to see if that’s what I really wanted to do.
“What I was learning that semester was very similar to what I loved about the farm. That’s when I found my career.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Nebraska, Bergt went to work for the engineering and design firm Clark Enersen Partners. Seven years later, she enrolled at Kansas State University and earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture.
She continued to work at Clark Enersen before returning to the university in 1999 to be the campus landscape architect and lead Landscape Services.
“Attending classes here on campus helped me realize my love for creating beautiful outdoor spaces that people enjoy,” Bergt said. “Now, the Nebraska Lecture is an opportunity for me, in a small way, to give back to the university while showcasing the people and projects behind our iconic campus landscapes.”
Bergt’s talk is the sixth in the 2019 Nebraska Lectures: Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker series. Regularly offered twice a year and featuring faculty discussing research and creative activity, the series has expanded in 2019 to a year-long, 12-talk format celebrating the university’s 150th anniversary. The expanded series is supported through a $15,000 grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through Humanities Nebraska.
All talks in the N150-inspired Chancellor’s Lecture series are free and open to the public. The talks will be streamed online and made available via podcast. Additional lecture topics and dates will be announced. Regular updates as well as videos from each lecture are available through the Nebraska Lectures website.
The Nebraska Lecture series is sponsored by the Research Council, Office of the Chancellor, Office of Research and Economic Development, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Humanities Nebraska.