Garden gift honors family

Garden gift honors family

Oct 27
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

As a student, Jo Ellyn Downey (Media ’66) would walk down Lincoln Avenue to enjoy the serenity of the University of Illinois Arboretum. She often thought it would be lovely to, someday, have a bench with her name on it, similar to others seen throughout the arboretum. Flowers and gardens have always been a source of comfort and peace to Jo. Later, as she raised a young family in Champaign-Urbana, the arboretum became a source of many hours of family fun and reflection.

The University of Illinois Arboretum Sesquicentennial Garden, from above.

On Friday, October 13, the University of Illinois Arboretum Sesquicentennial Garden was dedicated. This garden, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the university, was far more than a simple bench Jo Downey had once pondered gifting to the arboretum. In remembrance of the many family memories made in the arboretum, Jo provided a gift to establish this new garden in honor of her children Jay, Jill and Jennifer and grandchildren John, Rebecca, Ashleigh, Michael, Jake and Kate. 

Although much time has passed since Jo visited the arboretum as a student and she now lives in California, the University and the Urbana-Champaign community are sincerely appreciative of her remembering us with this generous gift.  

Students, faculty, staff and the community are encouraged to visit the Sesquicentennial Garden often in the seasons to come. As you experience the stunning perennials and flowering trees, pause and allow yourself to dream about what you can give back to the University of Illinois. Your dream may be more attainable than you realize.

Jo Downey with several members of her family at the Garden Dedication event.