Secrest Arboretum is a cherished place of refuge for Dr. David A. Benfield.
This motivated his generous gift, which helps the arboretum establish a prairie garden that will educate visitors about plants that grow on Ohio’s prairies.
The Welcome and Education Center at the Secrest Arboretum Fund 312597 is one of those promoted by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences during Campus Campaign 2016. Contributions of all amounts through April 30 will add to the college’s participation tally.
“Secrest is a wonderful place to walk through and see the diversity of horticulture that exists in the state of Ohio,” said Benfield, associate vice president for agricultural administration and director of The Ohio State University CFAES Wooster campus.
“It is a great place to meet people. You are sheltered from the rest of the world.”
In addition to the research and teaching, the arboretum serves many highly-valued purposes, including the promotion of wellness, the preservation of greenspaces, and a place where families can discover nature, Benfield said.
His recent garden donation is in the name of his first wife, Marylin. He hopes his gift will encourage others to follow through with donations.
“My hope would be that other people would see the value in the arboretum,” he said. “They would open up their minds and hearts and pocketbooks.
“It is not going to go away. That’s a wonderful thing: when you contribute to something that will be there probably for decades to come for people to enjoy,” Benfield said.
Joined by his current wife, Melnee, Benfield has made continual contributions to Secrest over the years since coming to Ohio State in 2002.
The tradition of giving to various philanthropies began while at South Dakota State University, where his research isolated the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in 1991, he said. The disease attacks the swine population and costs the swine industry nearly a billion dollars in annual losses, Benfield said.
His discovery led to development of a vaccine that is still used today.
“You always hope for a ‘wow’ moment in your career, and I hope that was the wow moment, Benfield said. “It changed the course of the research path for almost a decade.”