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April 18, 2023

Celebrating 150 years of memories made at the Beal Botanical Garden

Established in 1873 by William James Beal, the Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest continuously running university botanical garden in the United States. This year the garden celebrates 150 years of education and research, well-being, community, land stewardship and natural beauty.

While the garden has seen many changes to its landscape over the years, one thing remains the same — the way it connects people to nature, themselves and one another. The garden holds a special place in the heart of MSU’s campus and in the hearts of each of its visitors. Whether celebratory or heartwarming, many are quick to recall meaningful memories in the garden.

A photo of Beal Botanical Garden in the 1970s with Beaumont Tower in the distance. Courtesy William Currie.
The Beal Botanical Garden in the 1970s with Beaumont Tower in the distance. Courtesy William Currie.

William Currie, who graduated from MSU in 1969, shared one of his favorite Beal Botanical Garden memories, which was both celebratory and heartwarming: When he brought his mother to visit the garden to celebrate her 100th birthday in July 2016.

“It all goes back to my mother getting me interested in gardening,” said Currie.

As a member of the Little Garden Club growing up and with his mother’s influence, William developed a curiosity of plants that drew him to the garden when he initially arrived on campus. During his visits, Currie would like to read the labels of the vast selection of plants or simply enjoy a couple Quality Dairy donuts on the steps next to the library and watch passersby.

As an ode to his mother’s love of plants, Currie planned to celebrate her 100th birthday by treating her to a day trip to Beal Botanical Garden. The group parked next to the riverside entrance and enjoyed a stroll along the Red Cedar as they made their way into the garden. They spent the afternoon reading about the various plants as they took in the beautiful scenery and sunlight. William was delighted to spend the day celebrating the person who sparked his love of plants in a space that celebrates this shared passion.

Whether it be plants, people or love, the garden continues to be a hub for celebration. It’s a place where relationships — like plants — continue to flourish and grow. Occasionally the garden is witness to the budding of a new relationship, like it was for the Pasquali family.

Mark and Alysha Pasquali met in 2020. Mark is an MSU undergraduate alum of 2002 and MSU College of Law alum of 2006. During his time at the university, he said the Beal Botanical Garden “was an area on campus that felt like home.”

Mark and Alysha Pasquali in the Beal Botanical Garden
Mark and Alysha Pasquali

The pair had always been very open with one another about wanting to get married. So, on one particularly warm and sunny afternoon as they were wandering around East Lansing, Mark suggested a trip to the garden. He brought Alysha down to the garden’s secluded pond where they could sit peacefully beneath the canopy of trees. This was Alysha’s first time visiting the garden, so she took a moment to admire the beautiful greenery surrounding them. As she turned to take a seat beneath the shade, she found Mark beside the bench on one knee. There was no question that her answer would be an enthusiastic yes.

The Pasqualis still make time to visit the garden each time they are in East Lansing. “Even in the chaos of game days, I still make a point to walk through,” said Mark.

Aside from their personal connection, they both acknowledge that the garden has a much deeper history.

“It’s more than just a display of plants, there is a lot of history behind the plants, benches and garden itself.”

They collectively enjoy the fact that the Beal Botanical Garden has an educational mission.

“I feel like I learn something every time,” said Mark, “and there is always something new that I haven’t seen before.”

For Alysha, she enjoys seeing people of all ages using the garden. “We hope we are fortunate to have kids one day, to take them and experience it with them.”

The Pasqualis hope to donate a commemorative bench to signify their love for the garden and for one another. When asked what the garden means to them, Alysha and Mark both said, “It’s a place where we make memories.”

While some come to the garden in celebration, others come looking for a moment of peace and solitude, like Daniel O’Brien, an MSU 1984 graduate.

“I would visit during my happiest times and my saddest times,” said Daniel.

As an undergraduate, O’Brien knew he would not get much work done in his three-person dorm and sought out a quiet place on campus to study. On one of his excursions to MSU’s main library, he discovered the Beal Botanical Garden.

“More and more it became my favorite place on campus,” he said. “It felt so secluded.”

He found that the natural environment and beauty of the garden gave him the reset he needed in stressful times.

Years later, O’Brien was on his third attempt applying to MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine — one of the best in the nation. He had an interview on the southeast side of campus but chose to take the long route from Beech Street to cut through the garden. He felt a sense of calmness walking through and was able to clear his mind, regaining confidence as he headed into his interview. On his way home post interview, he took another trip through the garden to enjoy the scenery, soon after learning that he had been accepted to the program.

Stories like these are what make the Beal Botanical Garden special to both its visitors and our MSU community. Many more memories have been made over the course of 150 years, and the Beal team wants to hear them!

If you have a memorable moment that you would like to share, please reach out to with your stories and photos to be featured on its website, social media and at anniversary events.

By: Molly Taylor

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