Still in bloom after 50 years

Half a century ago, a woman with a love for beauty, flowers and gardening began a process in Huntsville, which has continued throughout the years.Grace Longino Cox took those passions and created a fresh and beautiful look for the campus of Sam Houston State University in the late 1940s.Cox came to SHSU as a student in 1922 and began the beautification process on the campus after the death of her husband, who was a professor at SHSU.”(SHSU) felt they neede to help out this widow that now did not have a provider,” said Mary Welborn, Cox’s daughter.Cox has much experience in gardening. Prior to her employment at the university, she was president of the Garden Club and attended her own garden faithfully. While beautifying the campus, Cox also taught a botany course.”Until age 90, when she broke a hip, she would spend all day outside gardening with her hands and loving it. I would have to wait until after dark to get her on the phone,” Welborn said.”It got to be a real good thing, being a beautifician of the campus,” Cox said. “One thing I did was I designed and instituted the jewel garden.”Cox was known for her remarkable jewel garden, which was located near Austin Hall. The jewel garden was a pool with pretty rocks an dstones embedded around it, which were the jewels. Students threw coins into the pool, and Welborn said her nephew would plunder in it when he was young.She was so dedicated to the campus, museum and park,” said Martha Wolfe, a friend of Cox’s. “She not only oversaw the planting and cultivation, but she did some of it as well.”Dr. and Mrs. Wolfe met Cox at SHSU in 1947 while they were employed there. Wolfe said Cox was one of the first persons she met.In 1951, Cox was paid $3,000 over a 12-month period for campus beautification.”There was no money for that kind of thing so she and my husband used to go to Austin and beg the legislature for money,” Wolfe said.After working on the campus for five or six years, Cox accepted a job as director of the Sam Houston State Museum and park.According to Wolfe, Cox furnished flowers when the college had activities from the museum ground she oversaw.”She was especially gifted in raising gladioluses,” Wolfe said. “She grew the prettiest gladioluses.”Cox tried to keep both jobs on campus and the museum going on stimultaneously, but as much as she loved it, she gave up the campus beautification. After 19 or so years as working as director of the museum and park, Cox retired.In 1986, SHSU honored Cox by presenting her with the Distinguished Alumni Award.Campus beautification continues at SHSU, except today it is done by the hands of Scott Dolezal.Dolezal graduated from SHSU with a degree in horticulture and has worked on the campus for about three years as greenhouse operator/horticulturist.Like Cox, he not only oversees the re-landscaping and maintenance on campus, but does some of it as well.Dolezal oversees the care of the greenhouses and nusery in which most of the plants used for the campus are grown.Apparently, SHSU’s funding for campus beautification has come a long way since the 1950s.”The university funds us quite well,” said Dolezal. “They take real good care of me here.”Flowers are planted for special events, such as mums for Homecoming, but as Dolezal said, not all events can have specific flowers planted for them. He said they would have liked to plant poinsettias for the Christmas holiday, but that it was not possible this year.Dolezal said some of his favorite sports on campus are the azalea garden near the Teacher Education Center and the Old Main area.Campus beautification may not seem like an important job to some, but the question, “What would the campus look like without it?” arises.The sweat and toil that many have poured into the grounds at SHSU hopefully does not go unappreciated.Whether it is by the torch of “Amazine Grace,” as some called Cox, or by another such as Dolezal, SHSU will hold a certain beauty special to those who know and appreciate the hard work done to make the campus a beautiful place.

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