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Anita Zahs’ Greenhouse Dedication celebrates her life and her family’s gift to SAU

Family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Anita Zahs gathered on Sunday, October 4th to honor what she had contributed to everyone around her at St. Ambrose University. The dedication was in honor of the newly renovated greenhouse and pollinator garden installation made possible by a donation from Dr. Zahs’ family.

The event began with Sister Joan giving some opening remarks, welcoming everyone to the event.

“Anita Zahs, an assistant biology professor, was a devoted environmentalist whose passion for the environment was modeled through her curriculum. Today we are here to honor her memory through her family’s gift, by creating a permanent way to pay tribute to Anita. The Anita Zahs Greenhouse and pollinator garden has been designated to continue her life and legacy on campus,” Sister Joan stated.

Father Thomas Hennen offered a prayer and then blessed the newly renovated and named greenhouse. 

Dr. Neil Aschliman, a former colleague of Dr. Zahs and a biology professor here at SAU, spoke to her drive and character. 

Dr. Neil Aschliman speaks about working with Dr. Anita Zahs and her dedication to her values. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Graham.

“Anita was an amazing colleague and friend. While she was a member of our team for only three bright years, she inspired her colleagues and students in countless and enduring ways. Anita was a true Ambrosian,” Dr. Aschliman said. 

Dr. Aschliman continued, talking about three linked aspects of her personality. 

“First, Anita was fully and completely devoted to her students. Her door and heart were open to all, and the sound of Anita patiently explaining concepts to eager students was the background music of our office suite. 

“Second, Anita lived her values every day. She was positionally environmentally conscious and inspired others.

“And finally—I’m sure you’ve noticed the theme—Anita was just plain tough. She was one of the most unflappable, determined, and fearless people I’ve had the privilege to know. She soldiered on without complaint through her long fight with cancer and indeed kept teaching until the last few days of her inspiring life,” Dr. Aschliman said. 

Dr. Zahs’ family attended the event, with Zahs’ sister Penny Danly speaking. 

“I first want to thank St. Ambrose, the faculty, the staff, and the students for having my family here today. Even though Anita is gone St. Ambrose will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Danly said. 

Danly then goes on to tell a story about her children and how she sees parts of her sister in them. She explained that Anita had a little bit of influence on everyone she met and that in this way, she is still with us today. 

Danly continued, talking about all the times that Anita spoke about her students and how passionate she was about her job. She said that Anita only ever referred to her students as students when decorum demanded it, instead referring to them as her kids, stating she always cared so much about her kids. 

As for what has actually been done to the greenhouse, Dr. Tarasi explained the renovation process. 

So far, there have been some major repairs such as new windows, new metal benches, a functioning door, temperature control and much more, with some repairs still being done now. 

This will enable the space to be used by students again, both for specific classes and for research projects. For example, there are currently soybeans being grown under different climate change conditions. 

Soybeans from student projects sprouting in the greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Graham.

Not only was this dedication in recognition of the greenhouse renovations, but it recognized the newly installed pollinator garden as well.

“One of Dr. Zahs’ former students, London Williams, hoped St. Ambrose would develop and maintain a pollinator garden in her memory, and she worked with students in our environmental club, Green Life, to make that a reality this past spring,” Dr. Tarasi said. 

The Anita Zahs Greenhouse is located just outside of Lewis Hall, and the pollinator garden is just below Dr. Zahs’ office window on the south side of Lewis Hall.