ucked away from the campus hubbub, the University Arboretum is home to more than 1,400 trees, shrubs and perennials from around the world. And one very dedicated keeper.
Emeritus biological sciences professor Mike Baad, has presided over the Arboretum for nearly 50 years. The three-acre garden began as a teaching tool and has become a labor of love.
Mike Baad, director, University Arboretum
“This is my backyard basically,” he says. “It’s definitely become part of me.” Baad retired 10 years ago, but still teaches part time, with that salary going toward plant purchases. He sees the Arboretum—winner of the 2013 Legacy Award from the Sacramento Tree Foundation—as an educational element for both the University and local community, and he frequently hosts tours for schools, botanical groups and garden enthusiasts.
Last summer, among his visitors were some unexpected special guests: Robert and Jody Nelsen.
“I work here on Sundays and there was a gentleman and his wife who came through,” Baad says. “I chatted with them for about half an hour. Then he said, ‘I’m your new president.’”
Other fond memories stem from the work and dedication of past student assistants, and he says he is fortunate to have five of them currently helping keep the place in shape.
And soon, it will have a new tenant, The Solar NEST. The 996 square-foot, net-zero energy house will function as an outreach facility highlighting important ecological issues related to the Sacramento region.
“It’s a nice aesthetic surrounding, and I think the two will fit together nicely,” Baad says.