UVA Darden Dedicates Tahija Arboretum: A Green Oasis Honoring Legacy and Learning

By David Buie-Moltz

On a picturesque morning on 10 June, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business celebrated the formal dedication of The Tahija Arboretum, a space that intertwines nature with education. Part of the larger Tahija Arboretum & LaCross Botanical Gardens, it stands as a testament to the generosity and vision of George S. Tahija (MBA ’86) and his wife, Laurel Tahija. This ceremony marked the completion of the recognition of this verdant sanctuary, following the dedication of the LaCross Botanical Gardens honoring David M. LaCross (MBA ’78), and his wife, Kathleen O. LaCross, last fall.

Rob Weiler, president of the Darden School Foundation, opened the event with gratitude and admiration for the Tahijas. “George and Laurel, your vision and generosity have created a space that inspires and nurtures our community,” Weiler remarked.

The Tahija Arboretum features 130 types of trees and 170 types of shrubs across 10.66 acres. This green haven includes a 10,000-gallon cistern for sustainable water use and is home to over 113,000 plants, including 1,633 trees and 5,687 shrubs. It also boasts nearly 60,000 perennials, 46,190 bulbs, and 19 cultivars of Japanese maples.

Tim Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at UVA’s School of Architecture, highlighted the critical role of such green spaces. “We know that we need more spaces like this in cities,” Beatley stated. “There is a remarkable growing body of research that shows being in places like this improves our mood, reduces our stress levels and enhances our cognitive performance.”

Beatley discussed the health benefits of nature, such as reducing stress hormone levels, boosting the immune system and even increasing generosity and cooperation among people. “You can make a pretty good case that we are better human beings when we are around trees,” he added.

George Tahija expressed heartfelt gratitude, reflecting on his transformative journey at Darden. “Darden was more than a school; it was a safe haven that pushed me out of my comfort zone, fostering personal growth within this supportive environment,” he said. He fondly recalled his initial visit to Charlottesville 40 years ago and how Darden profoundly influenced his life and career.

Adding a personal touch, Laurel Tahija shared anecdotes from their 36 years of marriage, emphasizing George’s deep affection for Darden and his lifelong friendships formed there. “I think some of what we’re doing now is expressing that gratitude in a way that’s meaningful to the larger community,” she said.

George S. Tahija (MBA '86) and his wife, Laurel Tahija, sit on the bench dedicated in his honor and in memory of Professor Emeritus Leslie Grayson. (Photo by J.B. Fitts)
George S. Tahija (MBA '86) speaks during the dedication while his wife, Laurel Tahija, looks on. (Photo by J.B. Fitts)
Tim Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at UVA's School of Architecture, speaks during the dedication. (Photo by J.B. Fitts)

The ceremony also featured the unveiling of a bench dedicated in honor of George Tahija and in memory of Professor Emeritus Leslie Grayson, a gift from classmates Cathy Friedman (MBA ’86) and John “Andy” Bugas (MBA ’86). This bench symbolizes the enduring bonds and cherished memories formed during their time at Darden.

Weiler concluded the event by highlighting the significance of the arboretum for the Darden community. “This arboretum solidifies Darden’s reputation as one of the most stunning campuses in the business school world,” he said. “Looking ahead, as we develop residential housing adjacent to this space, it will only become more vibrant and essential to our community.”

About The Tahija Arboretum & LaCross Botanical Gardens

Nestled within the Darden Grounds, the Tahija Arboretum & LaCross Botanical Gardens offer a serene sanctuary with diverse plants and innovative landscaping. This botanical haven provides students, faculty, staff and the public a chance to enjoy nature through leisurely walks, educational gardens and moments of reflection. Learn More.

How Can I Support The Gardens?

Support the gardens by making a gift to the Darden Annual Fund for the Sustainable Grounds initiative. To plant a tree in honor or memory of someone or explore naming opportunities within the Tahija Arboretum & LaCross Gardens, visit the Darden School giving website. For tailored guidance, contact Deputy Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog at +1-434-981-4025 or HartogS@darden.virginia.edu.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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