Ag donor ensures transformative experiences for landscape contracting students

Susan Burlingame
October 04, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Dan T. Stearns, J. Franklin Styer Professor Emeritus in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, served as the inaugural professor and program coordinator of the college’s Landscape Contracting Program, established in 1989.

To honor Stearns’ commitment, vision and success, industry leader Daniel Eichenlaub and his wife, Barbara, have pledged $100,000 to establish the Dan T. Stearns Landscape Contracting Program Endowment, which will provide funds for student enrichment activities, such as industry conferences, competitions and business/site visits.

Eichenlaub is president of Eichenlaub, Inc., a landscape construction and maintenance firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He said Stearns “took something that didn’t exist and turned it into one of the country’s outstanding programs in landscaping contracting."

“Dan Stearns was the visionary who understood the needs of our students from the beginning.”

–Daniel Eichenlaub, Penn State alumnus and president of landscape construction and maintenance firm Eichenlaub, Inc.

The landscape contracting program has two options, design/build and management, both of which develop students’ skills in construction, site design, plant material usage, plant establishment and landscape maintenance. Students also gain knowledge in areas such as graphics, surveying, soils, turfgrass management, weed and pest management, and business operations.

Of particular importance is the program’s focus on experiential learning, including trips to landscape contracting firms and project sites, a national landscape design competition, and a major design and build project. Penn State landscape contracting students were responsible for the landscape outside of the University’s Hintz Family Alumni Center and for restoring the outdoor space at a local halfway house for girls, among many other projects.

“Dan Stearns was always a champion of transformational, hands-on experiences for students,” said Eichenlaub. “I’ve seen the result first-hand in the people I have hired.

"He [Stearns] was the visionary who understood the needs of our students from the beginning," added Eichenlaub.

Three of Eichenlaub’s company leaders and about 10 percent of his team are Penn State landscape contracting graduates.

“With this endowment, we wanted to make sure that students always have the means to go on trips and engage in hands-on projects,” added Eichenlaub.

“Employers are eager to hire our landscape contracting students because of hands-on experiences that prepare them for the industry,” said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “With this program endowment, the Eichenlaubs are helping students afford the experiential learning opportunities that lead to their ultimate success and address an expanding demand in the community. We are very grateful to Dan and Barbara for their generosity.”

“I’m humbled,” said Stearns, who Eichenlaub said is highly respected across the industry. “It’s quite an honor and one that I obviously wasn’t expecting, but most of all it’s wonderful that the Eichenlaubs are willing to support the program and make these learning opportunities possible.”

Stearns noted that Eichenlaub was one of the first to hire Penn State landscape contracting students.

“He is always available to work with us in the classroom and bring his experience and knowledge and outlook to the students. Dan is the kind of person who likes to share. Sharing his expertise has been wonderful and now the fact that he is sharing his wealth is awesome.”

The gift represents the Eichenlaubs’ commitment to Penn State’s $1.6 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." A 1978 Penn State graduate with a degree in architectural engineering, Eichenlaub serves as co-chair of the College of Agricultural Sciences’ volunteer development council. 

“Our hope is that other members of the landscape contracting industry will contribute to the endowment,” Eichenlaub said. “In doing so, they will honor the legacy of Dan Stearns and help ensure that Penn State landscape contracting students always have the financial support they need to participate in transformative, hands-on experiences.”

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit

Last Updated October 25, 2018