The gift of the Gardens extends the College’s footprint from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Smith Mountain Lake.
Educator, author, philanthropist and Ferrum College alumnus Allen DeHart of Louisburg, North Carolina, recently gifted the 172-acre DeHart Botanical Gardens in Patrick County to Ferrum College.
Founded by DeHart and located near Lover’s Leap Overlook on US-58 highway west of Stuart, DeHart Botanical Gardens is a rare nature preserve featuring a diverse population of plant and animal species as well as spectacular views that rival those seen from the famous overlook. The Gardens include wildflowers, old growth hardwoods, azalea, rhododendron, and wildlife, as well as freshwater streams, waterfalls, geological formations and caves, nature trails, and the stone foundation of a pioneer home site.
“We are extremely grateful to Allen DeHart for allowing Ferrum College to become the next steward of this extraordinary property in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. With his generous gift to the College the students and faculty in our environmental science, horticulture, agriculture, forestry and Ferrum Outdoors programs will benefit in countless ways,” said Ferrum College President Dr. Jennifer Braaten.
The College will use the property as a “living laboratory” in its Environmental Science and other sustainability-related programs. As one of the oldest academic programs of its kind in the United States, the College’s Environmental Science program emphasizes experiential learning and provides students with state-of-the art training so they may approach environmental problems holistically. The gift of the Gardens extends the College’s footprint from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Smith Mountain Lake, where the College has held the Smith Mountain Lake Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program since 1987.
“We are thankful to Professor DeHart for his lifelong devotion to preservation, his boundless love of nature and his desire to share with generations to come the wealth of knowledge waiting to be studied in the DeHart Botanical Gardens,” said Braaten.
A Patrick County native and a member of Ferrum College’s class of 1954, DeHart, also holds degrees from High Point University and the University of Virginia. DeHart previously donated the 91-acre DeHart Botanical Gardens in Franklin County, North Carolina, to nearby Louisburg College, where he served for 52 years as a full or part-time professor of American history, psychology and physical education. During his tenure he also served in a number of administrative roles.