Mission Statement

The mission of the William F. Curtis Arboretum is to foster appreciation of the natural world through:

Collections, by maintaining, developing, and interpreting well-documented plant collections from around the world that are hardy in the Lehigh Valley.

Teaching and experiential learning, by providing an outdoor laboratory for botany, horticulture, dendrology, and other fields related to the living collections.

Community Education, by providing publications and programs in conservation, dendrology, botany, and natural history that expand understanding of the natural world.

Recreation and Contemplation, by offering a place where people from the College and the community may come to reflect and renew themselves.

History of the Arboretum

When William F. Curtis, the seventh president of Cedar Crest, purchased the present site of the college campus in 1915, the landscape offered little more than a bare expanse of corn stubble and a single walnut tree. After the College moved to its present location, Dr. Curtis transformed this stark 84-acre campus by planting a variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees from all over the world, many of which he obtained in lieu of fees for his public speaking engagements.

Dr. Curtis often compared the growth of the college’s trees to the growth of its students, and devoted his life to promoting both, saying that they both needed careful cultivation and nurturing. Through his generous efforts and those of his successors, alumnae, student groups and friends of the college, the arboretum became a testimony to the world’s biodiversity. With trees representing most of the continents, the 140-plus species speak for the international flavor of the college.

On August 11, 1983, a violent thunderstorm destroyed the original walnut tree which symbolized for so many the transformation of the college campus. Its loss provided the impetus to develop the campus tree collection, and on September 21, 1985, the collection was officially named the William F. Curtis Arboretum and registered with the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (now the American Public Gardens Association).