Open-Air Study

Harlan Trust Supports Campus Greenhouse

Greenhouse manager Rachel Klein with students from Washington Middle School for Girls
April 24, 2018

Far above the bustling streets of Foggy Bottom, the new Wilbur V. Harlan Greenhouse is an oasis of green where plants, flowers, grasses, and other vegetation thrive. Butterflies and their larvae also call the greenhouse on the eighth floor of the Science and Engineering Hall home.

The state-of-the-art structure was built with funding from the Harlan Trust, an endowed fund established by the estate of the late Wilbur “Bill” Harlan, BS ’35, who received a degree in botany from GW and briefly served as a lab instructor in the department. At the advice of a former botany professor, Bill began his career teaching English in Afghanistan, and went on to work for the U.S.Department of Agriculture and travel extensively in Asia, Europe, and South and Central America. His bequest also established the Harlan Scholars program, which provides undergraduate and graduate students scholarships and summer stipends to pursue their research interests.

Since opening in February 2017, the greenhouse has become an integral part of the Biology Department and a valuable resource for faculty and students—including Harlan Scholars—who use it to conduct research and to source plant and insect samples for their work. The greenhouse also serves the wider GW community—a recent visit revealed 3,100 seeds beginning to germinate. The flowers will eventually be planted at the Washington Middle School for Girls through a partnership with ArtReach at THEARC in Southeast Washington, D.C.

It seems an apt analogy to say that Bill Harlan’s gift was a seed that has flourished into a space that is enhancing our study of the natural world and living things.