An aerial shot of Perelman Plaza at the beginning of the fall quarter to showcase the wide variety of trees, perennials and grounds offering fall color. Photo courtesy Scott Dunham.
The next time you’re on Drexel’s University City Campus, be sure to take a look around and admire the fall foliage and landscaping — the University recently won an award for excellence in grounds management for an urban university.
The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), a national membership society dedicated to advancing the education and development of the grounds management field, awarded Drexel the Honor Award in its 2016 Green Star Awards in the Urban University category for exceptional grounds management. This marked the first time Drexel submitted an application to receive an award and narrowly missed out on receiving a Grand Honor award, which is slightly higher in distinction.
For the managers of Drexel’s Grounds Department, this recognition is further proof not just of the beauty of Drexel’s campus, but of the exceptional ways that the management and staff have worked together to create a pleasing and usable landscape for the Drexel community.
“The Grounds Department, and Facilities in general, has changed their approach to grounds maintenance management and focused on new sustainable native designs and maintenance methods,” said James Vecchione, executive director of University Facilities and Real Estate. “Those tactics brought us from being rated one of the ugliest campuses in America to receiving one of the greatest nationwide honors from the Professional Grounds Management Society.”
Vecchione and Scott Dunham, assistant director of grounds, submitted an application to put Drexel in the running for an award. This was the first time that Drexel applied for recognition from the PGMS.
“Drexel has come a long way in the last 10 years especially and the campus grounds are a huge part of that,” said Dunham. “For the both of us, entering into the PGMS Green Star Awards competition was a way to highlight the best of what the campus has to offer, a way to highlight the constant efforts of both management and our staff and a way to add validity to what we felt was becoming an outstanding landscape.”
Left to right: Scott Dunham, Drexel's assistant director of the Grounds Department; John Doiron, PGMS President; and James Vecchione, executive director of University Facilities and Real Estate.
As part of the application, Vecchione and Dunham submitted a PowerPoint presentation including pictures of the campus and accompanying captions. Of the 26 pictures, 15 had to show the overall beauty of a landscape product, four had to show crewmembers at work and four had to show challenges and solutions faced in maintaining a site. One photo had to show each of the following categories: sustainable practices, safety practices and a person in charge.
Submitted photos included the new Cohen Alumni Garden seating area adjacent to Perelman Plaza; Yoshino cherry trees in bloom on Market Street; a tropical plant display outside of the Hagerty Library in the summer; annual flower displays being planted in front of Towers Hall and planting ornamental grasses and roses to hide subway vents near the trolley stop at 33rd and Market streets.
An additional entry outlining the mission statement for the Grounds Department also had to be included. The winning mission statement was as follows: “The Drexel University Grounds Department serves the University by providing and maintaining a high quality, versatile and enjoyable landscape for the users of a vibrant and engaging urban university by utilizing technically efficient and environmentally responsible practices.”
“A lot of people may only get to see small portions of the campus along their walk to class or work,” said Dunham. “There are some really great views on campus and I think everyone should get a chance to see them.”
Now, especially, is the time to see the waning results of the Grounds Department’s yearlong efforts before winter comes and covers the campus in snow. So the next time you’re walking to a class or work, keep your eyes peeled for nearby plants, trees and other pieces of landscaping — they are award-winning, after all.