It may be quieter inside the residence halls and classrooms now that the calendar has flipped to summer, but out on the grounds of the ACU campus, life doesn’t slow down for Scott Warren and the landscaping and grounds crew.
Summer is a prime opportunity for Warren, ACU’s director of grounds and landscaping, and his 21-person crew. After thousands of people cross campus every day during the fall and spring, lower foot traffic in the summers allows the team a chance to rehabilitate grass and maintain the grounds during the West Texas heat so that it’s ready for students’ return in August.
But their return in the fall makes all the work worth it for Warren.
“Students are No. 1,” he said. “We’re here for them.”
Warren has been serving students and the ACU community for nine years. After 28 years in the retail gardening business and at a landscaping firm, he wanted something even more fulfilling, and that’s when his position at ACU opened.
“I loved the idea of my job here also being my ministry, and I want to improve the quality of life on our campus,” Warren said.
He takes that ministry seriously. “We’re not here just to trim trees. We’re not here just to plant flowers,” Warren said. “There’s more to what we do.”
We want students, faculty and staff to be able to immerse themselves in the landscape because I believe it gives them a chance to recharge, even if just for a few minutes. Whenever they go back inside to class, maybe their stress level is lower, or maybe their blood pressure drops a bit. It can make their day just a little better and brighter.
Not that the flowers and trees don’t keep him busy. Warren and his crew – which includes groundskeepers, landscape gardeners, irrigation technicians, sports field groundskeepers, chemical applicators, mechanics and supervisory personnel – maintain more than 300 acres on and around campus. They tend about 2,600 trees on campus now, up from only about 160 in 1960.
The beauty around campus surprises some first-time visitors, but Warren said there are ways of using plants that thrive in the sometimes extreme West Texas climate to make a beautiful landscape. That starts with being good stewards of the natural resources. The university uses reclaimed water for irrigation to keep the campus green. And since Warren has been at ACU, he and his team started planting more perennial plants instead of annuals they must replant year after year.
When Warren talks about trying to make students “stop and smell the roses,” he’s not just making a landscaping joke. As technology has become more ubiquitous, Warren often notices people crossing campus with their noses buried in their phones, making it difficult for them to appreciate the beauty around them.
“We’ve introduced fragrant plants,” Warren said. “Even if you don’t see them at first, it can be hard to miss the scent of our lavender, lilacs and hyacinths, and we hope the pleasant aromas convince our students to look up and notice the beauty around them.”
And it’s not just beauty for beauty’s sake. At the root of every flower and tree is the mission that Warren keeps front of mind: improving the lives of everyone in the ACU community.
“We want students, faculty and staff to be able to immerse themselves in the landscape because I believe it gives them a chance to recharge, even if just for a few minutes,” he said. “Whenever they go back inside to class, maybe their stress level is lower, or maybe their blood pressure drops a bit. It can make their day just a little better and brighter.”
– Robin Saylor
June 9, 2021