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Greenhouse renovations: Honoring the life of Dr. Anita Zahs

A donation from the family of the late Dr. Anita Zahs has made renovations to the campus greenhouse possible, converting it from an unusable space to a place that will be enjoyed by many. 

The family approached the science department wanting to do something in honor of Dr. Zahs, and after talking it over for a while, ultimately decided on the greenhouse as a lasting memorial. 

Many of Dr. Zahs’ former colleagues, including Dr. Amy Blair and Dr. Dennis Tarasi, agreed that this is a project that really fit who she was as a person, and it was something that she would have cared deeply about and appreciated. 

Dr. Zahs said it best herself, “I’ve always found inspiration just being outside in nature. I like to watch things grow and change with time, and I continue to be inspired by the variety of life around us.”

In order to make the space usable again, many aspects of the greenhouse needed to be changed and upgraded. This includes, but is not limited to, new plumbing, new windows, new vents and fans, a new swamp cooler, new key-card accessible doors, and several other smaller editions such as new benches and thermostats. 

As of right now, the greenhouse is currently being used for some science classes for activities such as growing soybeans under different climate change conditions. There are plans for increased use in the future, by both classes and other organizations on campus. 

“I’m currently having conversations with some of my bio students about conducting research projects using the greenhouse,” said Dr. Tarasi. 

Green Life, an environmental club on campus, has also expressed interest in using the greenhouse for projects. They gave several examples, such as using it to start plants for the local community garden, possibly a St. Ambrose garden or to grow oak trees for a fundraiser. 

This project began in the fall of 2019 and is still in the process of finishing up.

There was a dedication held on October 4th, 2020 to show appreciation for the family’s donation and say some words in honor of Dr. Zahs. 

“In attendance will be members of Dr. Zahs’ family, SAU administration, former students of Dr. Zahs and some of Dr. Zahs’ close friends,” said Dr. Blair. 

 This event was held by invitation only. 

The pollinator garden put in by a former student of Dr. Zahs, senior London Williams, was also talked about at the dedication. 

The pollinator garden in full bloom outside of Dr. Zahs’ former office. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Graham.

“I think this is something that Dr. Zahs would have really liked. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive on campus,” said Williams. 

Both Dr. Zahs and Williams shared a great love for the environment, so Williams decided to put in a pollinator garden outside of Dr. Zahs’ former office in Lewis Hall. Williams designed the garden using all native plants and was assisted by Green Life to put it in. 

“Everything happened so fast, she was such a positive person and she was so passionate,” said Williams. 

Dr. Zahs and her family have made a lasting impact on the St. Ambrose community, and her passion for the environment will be felt for years to come—both in the form of the greenhouse and in the influence she had on those who knew her.