Donor Support Ensures Completion of First Phase of Arboretum Accessible Pathway

MaryJane (MJ) Kirkpatrick, her daughter Kim Pennente and sister-in-law Lisa Schiel of the Schiel Family Foundation stand at the new Ambler Arboretum Accessible Pathway.

An arboretum is little better than a landscape painting if it can only be enjoyed from a distance.

Thanks to the generous support of MaryJane (MJ) Kirkpatrick, her daughter Kim Pennente, sister-in-law Lisa Schiel of the Schiel Family Foundation, and the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, a new “Ambler Arboretum Accessible Pathway” has been developed to ensure that everyone can enjoy the Temple University Ambler campus gardens the way they were intended.

“The gardens at Temple Ambler are a wonderful resource, a real showcase for the campus and for Temple. Temple is my alma mater — I received a fabulous education through the School of Psychology; I loved my career and the ability to work with people,” said Kirkpatrick, who received her PhD in Psychology at Temple. “After visiting Temple University Ambler, I fell in love with the gardens and the campus. I very much hope to continue to be involved at Temple Ambler.”

Kirkpatrick said her parents — George and Jane Schiel — and a personal interest in organic gardening and sustainability provided the inspiration to build connections with Temple University Ambler and the Ambler Arboretum.

“My Dad, who founded the family foundation, was an avid gardener and a huge walker — at 95 he was still walking two miles every day. In his last years, he had difficulty walking and could no longer enjoy gardens that didn’t have handicapped access,” said Kirkpatrick, who became a member of both the Bucks and Ambler branches of the Woman’s National Farm & Garden Association, an organization founded at the Ambler Campus in 1914. The Schiel Family Foundation also supported the development of the Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection and helped to fund the Woman’s National Farm & Gardens Visitors Center on campus.  “It made perfect sense for us to support an effort like this in the Ambler Arboretum.”

The permanent, handicapped-accessible pathway connects Albright Walk — the main pedestrian corridor through the campus — with five themed gardens, many of which date back decades to the early days of Temple University Ambler predecessor the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women. The newly accessible gardens — when the pathway is fully completed — will include the Louise Bush-Brown Formal Perennial Garden, the Albright Winter Garden, the Formal Native Perennial Garden, the Louise Stein Fisher Garden and the Ground Cover Garden. Prior to the development of the pathway, individuals had to traverse several stone steps or follow a wood-chipped path to get into the gardens.

“We are very grateful to MJ Kirkpatrick and the support of the Schiel Family Foundation. This project has gone a long way toward the creation, development, preservation and maintenance of the formal gardens’ accessibility to the public for educational purposes. Since the inception of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1911, the Ambler Campus gardens have continuously served as a primary education resource for courses and research,” said Angela Davis, Director of Development at Temple University Ambler. “When the formal design and development of our gardens began in the 1920’s, ease of access by the public was not a main concern. Since the campus was designated an arboretum in 2000 and the educational and aesthetic value of plant collections have steadily expanded, we have experienced an increase in visitation to the gardens from beyond the campus community.”

The challenge, Davis said, is to “update both the accessibility and visibility of our historic gardens and connect them with the larger campus landscape.”

“We would like to complete the pathway through the Formal Garden and ending at the Native Plant Garden. With the completion of the pathway, visitors will have ready access to the gardens for generations to come,” she said. “An anonymous donor has generously offered a $10,000 matching gift towards the pathway. If we are able to raise the other $10,000 by July 1, we will be able to fully fund the pathway!”

Donations of any size are welcome. Make a contribution by visiting — type “Ambler Pathway” in the “Other” designation area.

To learn more about supporting Temple University Ambler or how to make a charitable gift that supports numerous campus initiatives, contact Angela Davis at or 267-530-2933 or Eric Rivera at or 267-468-8011.