New director’s fund at Arboretum latest in philanthropic support

Susan Bedsworth Warner
October 14, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Philanthropy has been the driving force in the creation, sustainment and growth of The Arboretum at Penn State, not only in relation to its size but also its program offerings. A new fund established in honor of Kim Steiner, recently retired founding director of the Arboretum, is the latest example of how philanthropy continues to positively impact the gardens.

The Arboretum at Penn State Director’s Fund in Honor of Dr. Kim C. Steiner was created through a $25,000 gift by Diane Blanton, a 1979 graduate of the College of Agricultural Sciences with a degree in agriculture. To encourage community support for the fund, honor Steiner, and provide resources for future directors, she has offered an additional $25,000 to match gifts to the endowment from others.

The fund will provide financial support for the director for uses outside of the regular operating budget. These may include new initiatives, collaborative projects, and the planning and design of new gardens or features, as well as other expenses as they arise.

“Diane’s understanding and insight into the practical realities of operating a business have given us something very useful for running the Arboretum when things do not go as expected or planned,” said Sanford Smith, interim director of The Arboretum at Penn State. “I cannot thank her enough for making this philanthropic gift and her match challenge.”

“Since its very beginning, the Arboretum has been an outstanding addition to the University Park campus and the greater State College community,” noted Blanton.

“It brings people of all ages together, provides bountiful educational opportunities, is a place for memorable events, and has a bright future ahead as the anchor for the cultural district,” she said. “This fund named in honor of Dr. Steiner, who had a five-decade career at Penn State in which he was involved in the planning and creation of the Arboretum for nearly that entire time, will ensure that his legacy and leadership continues to impact and influence the future of the Arboretum for decades to come.”

“Diane has been a loyal supporter of the Arboretum since the early years when the project seemed like more of a wish than a plan, which makes me all the more grateful for this particular gift,” said Steiner. “This endowment will fill a funding gap where money can often be hard to find, whether it is for repairs due to storm damage or to support programs that may have unbudgeted needs. The fund will allow the director to address innovations and unexpected problems quickly and easily.”

The gift from Blanton is just the latest in philanthropic support for the Arboretum that began with the inspirational $10 million gift from 1948 alumnus Charles “Skip” Smith to get the project started and subsequently name the first feature, the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. Through the years, countless gifts have been made creating numerous well-known features, including the Marsh Meadow Boardwalk, the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden and most recently the Pollinator and Bird Garden, among others. In addition, many other gifts have been made to create and enhance various initiatives and educational programing, such as the Robert J. and Marcia Udine Day Support for The Arboretum at Penn State for children and youth programs.

Blanton, a longtime supporter of Penn State, the Arboretum, and the College of Agricultural Sciences – for which she co-chairs the Volunteer Development Council – fully appreciates the impact of support from the Penn State and State College communities, and she hopes her most recent gift inspires others to contribute in some way.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Arboretum grow and change, and I’m thankful that I have had and continue to have the opportunity to play a part in that process,” said Blanton. “When people visit the Arboretum, I hope they realize how critical philanthropic support is to the incredible space they are enjoying and are inspired to contribute in their own way.”

Whether it is through an endowed fund like The Arboretum Director’s Fund in Honor of Dr. Kim C. Steiner, purchasing a memorial or commemorative gift of a bench or tree, making a planned or major gift, or including the Arboretum in estate plans, there are many options for individuals interested in being a part of the Arboretum’s present and future.

“It is through gifts of all sizes and types, made through outright gifts, bequests and other kinds of commitments, that the Arboretum has been able to become what it is today,” said Patrick Williams, director of development for the Arboretum. “Through the years, the Arboretum has been the recipient of many a timely gift allowing us to establish new programs, address an unexpected challenge or take the next step in its growth. We greatly appreciate Diane’s continued support through the creation of this fund in honor of Dr. Steiner.”

Those interested in securing a match for a gift to The Arboretum at Penn State Director’s Fund in Honor of Dr. Kim C. Steiner, can contact Williams.

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 is pursuing "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: 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 about supporting the college, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated October 14, 2021