Flowers and Foliage Sprouting Wellness and Joy
Nearly 40 people from the Kent State community enjoyed a tour of the flowers and trees of Front Campus during part two of the “Walk & Talk: Flowers and Foliage” event, thanks to the Employee Wellness and Health Promotion program and the grounds crew on Friday, Sept. 16.
Rebekkah Berryhill, grounds manager, gave the lunch-hour tour, which started behind Merrill Hall in the Beck Family Memorial Gardens in ''Behind the Brain Plaza.'' Aided by groundskeeper Andrea Smith, the tour began by discussing the impressive carved elements of the garden - most of which were sculpted on-site. The space was designed by then-university horticulturalist Mike Norman and the grounds crew and students were heavily involved with the design and upkeep of the gardens, Berryhill noted.
The group stopped at the Sidney statue behind Rockwell Hall. Created by alumnus Robert Wick in honor of his wife, it is a living statue because the bronze creation has numerous plants that inhabit it.
The pockets of soil are very shallow, Berryhill said, and the statue can get very hot in the sun, so finding plants that can thrive in those conditions is a challenge.
The next stop was the enormous flower bed at the front of Rockwell Hall, dominated by 5-foot-tall canna lilies. “This is a 40 mph flower bed or a 0 mph flower bed,” Berryhill said. “Whether you’re shooting by in a car or walking, it draws you in. Everyone recognizes it.”
The tour stopped at the Prentice Gate on the corner of South Lincoln and East Main streets to admire the flora ringing this hotspot for graduation photos.
The group then traveled across the street to the Wick Poetry Park, featuring another living statue created by artist Wick, and the outdoor amphitheater ringed by huge flowering hydrangea. A pollinator garden is nestled between the 12-foot bronze sculpture and the May Prentice house, home to the Wick Poetry Center.
The tour ended at the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement.
It was a beautiful fall day, and a great opportunity to learn about the history and evolution of the gardens on the tour. Staff enjoyed the walk and the information.
“This is something you don’t really get to hear about,” said Megan Smeznik, educational technology designer in the Office of Continuing and Distance Education, who participated in the tour, “what the grounds crew do, and how they make it all look like this.”
Plus, she adds, it’s good to “get out of the office.”
This, of course, is the prime reason behind the event. Employee Wellness & Health Promotion hosts Walk & Talk events for faculty and staff annually during the late spring, summer and early fall months.
“It’s great to see so many employees coming together for an opportunity that supports well-being and social connection,” Deanna Duffy, assistant manager of Employee Wellness and Health Promotion, said.
Employees in the Wellness Your Way program received 10 Tier Two points for participating in this walk, and employees in the TREK initiative earned a Fall Walk & Talk medallion for their hiking sticks.
“Similar to how Bekkah mentioned that compliments on the grounds and flower fixtures around campus make her staff feel good and motivate them to continue giving their best,” Duffy continued, “events like this energize me and reaffirm my love for this work and the employees we serve.”
Other Walk & Talk events hosted in 2022 include Campus Sustainability with Melanie Knowles, a tour of the Design Innovation Hub with J.R. Campbell, Campus Construction with Jerry Eveleth, Conquering Different Terrains with Beth Michel and Introduction to Disc Golf with Chris Lukas. Part one with the grounds crew was in June 2022 and titled “Campus in Bloom.”
“I was very happy with the event today,” Duffy said. “We had a fantastic turnout, beautiful weather, knowledgeable and relatable presenters — Bekkah Berryhill and company — and an engaged audience.”
To learn more about the employee wellness program, visit https://www.kent.edu/hr/wellness.