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The new visitor center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Oswald Visitor Center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

Arboretum names visitor center in honor of donor

From eNews, May 5, 2005

After a decade of planning and two years of construction, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen opened its new 45,000-square-foot visitor center on January 25. The center--the formal entry point to the arboretum's 1,040 acres of gardens, plant collections, and natural landscapes, was recently named the Oswald Visitor Center in honor of a generous donor.

In 2000, Charles W. Oswald anonymously gave the arboretum $10 million for the visitor center-that sum was the single largest donation in the arboretum's history. In 2002, he made an additional gift of $3.5 million to complete the construction of the building and surrounding gardens. His gifts were made in memory of his wife, Sally Pegues Oswald, who died in 1996.

"My wife always loved to go to the arboretum, and I know she would have loved going there today as much as I do," says Oswald. "It was she who introduced me to it when our children were young. I wanted to do something in her memory that would have meant a lot to her, and the arboretum, with its commitment to serving children and families, fits in closely with the values that we as a family believed in."

In 1999, Oswald also gave $1.5 million to the arboretum to create Sally Pegues Oswald--A Growing Place for Kids, tripling the size of the learning center. That gift strengthened the arboretum's ability to serve the 53,000 children and families who participate each year in its hands-on educational programs.

"Charley Oswald has been a very special friend to the arboretum and has made an incredible impact on this unique institution," says Peter Olin, arboretum director. "Because of his gifts, we have been able to expand and enrich the ways that we reach out to the quarter of a million people who visit the arboretum every year, to teach them about the biological world."

Oswald served as president of Jostens Corp., where he worked from 1953 to 1970, and then as chair and CEO of National Computer Systems from 1970 to 1994. He also chaired the Owatonna school board in Minnesota for 13 years.

Oswald's gifts were part of a six-year, $65 million comprehensive arboretum campaign that raised money for new and expanded facilities, gardens, and programs, as well as endowment funds for maintenance.

"The thousands of people who contributed to the arboretum [including 12 who gave $1 million or more] have made it possible for us to revitalize this nationally recognized public garden without any tax dollars," says Olin. "This is a testament to the place the arboretum holds in the hearts of so many."

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest. It is part of the U's College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences. To learn more about the arboretum or the Oswald Visitor Center, see www.arboretum.umn.edu.

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