Garden of happy tears
She didn’t mean to cry.
But she did, and her tears made it hard to see the garden and its trees and shrubs, its paths where the students walk.
Her tears made it hard to see the little red flowers at her feet, beside the bronze plaque with the words that had made her cry in the first place:
DR. LEE J. ENRIGHT GARDEN
DESIGNER … CAMPUS LANDSCAPE PLAN
FRIEND OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
Her husband. Her best friend.
“It’s nice,” Dorothy Enright said after a moment. “Very nice.”
This garden named for her husband is a rectangular area to the north of UNL’s Love Library. It’s between Morrill Hall and Andrews Hall on the east and Burnett Hall and Bessey Hall on the west.
Mueller Tower rises on the north end, right near the plaque.
The last time Dorothy stood at this spot was September 1976, when she helped dedicate the garden in her husband’s name, along with the Donaldson and Cather Gardens nearby. That was a year after he died of cancer in the prime of his career.
He was head of the landscape team for the Texas architectural firm (CRC) that designed all the gardens on UNL’s City Campus in the early ’70s. He’d travel up from Houston.
He wasn’t used to the cold, she recalled. It seemed as if they never could find his overcoat before each trip. They’d hunt through their house together.
But he’d go to Lincoln happy and he’d return from Lincoln happy.
Though neither of them had any connection to Nebraska other than that project, their esteem for the University of Nebraska – and Nebraskans – took root in those early years.
Dorothy Enright held a pod of seeds in her hands as she continued walking. She walked carefully. She’s 91. This was only her third time ever on campus.
“The campus looks beautiful,” she said, smiling as she continued the tour.
On her “bucket list”
Visiting this garden one final time was on her “bucket list,” she’d told friends at the University of Nebraska Foundation.
Those friends joined her on the tour this warm summer day, along with UNL landscape architects and the dean of UNL’s College of Architecture.
What was Lee Enright like?
They met as students at Penn State. She was sitting alone in the lobby of a hotel after just arriving on campus. She was hungry. Lee saw her and asked if she needed any help. He took her to a restaurant. That was it! Two years later, they married.
He had a great sense of humor. One Christmas, she told him she wanted a Spiro Agnew wristwatch. He gave her a Mickey Mouse watch instead. It was perfect.
He loved reading and talking about the news events of the day.
He could read her mind, and she could read his.
His taste in interior decorating was better than hers, and he made his decisions in half the time. She let him pick out their home in Houston without her even seeing it.
He loved traveling around the country. He loved taking short day trips through the countryside to look at the scenery, which was always changing.
He loved the UNL landscaping project.
It was one of her husband’s favorite projects, she says, because he was able to see it from the design stage to its reality.
“He always said that a plan was not complete until it was off the drawing board and being used by people.”
His plan was to unite the buildings on City Campus and adding beauty and spaciousness and a sense of calm to the area while directing the flow of traffic.
And he loved her.
In memory of her husband
Dorothy helped pay for a renovation to Enright Garden a few years back.
She is noteworthy herself. She was a chemist in the days when few women entered that field. She co-authored a number of scientific papers and patents. She worked for oil companies in Texas.
They had no children of their own. She plans to leave much of her estate to the university – to Enright Garden, to the students walking its paths and to the budding landscape architects in the School of Architecture. Her gift will take root and grow.
It will make the campus even more beautiful.
As she walked around the grounds this warm summer day, with the smell of Russian sage in the air and the sound of the wind through cottonwoods, she had this thought:
He would have loved to be here now. He would have loved to see the gardens, 38 years later, still being used as he’d intended.
Dorothy Enright is a member of the foundation’s Burnett Society, which is open to people who’ve made plans to leave a gift to the University of Nebraska in their estate. For more information, contact Tracy Edgerton at 800-432-3216.
If you would like to support Enright Garden, please consider giving online to the Dr. Lee J. Enright Landscape Fund in the UNL College of Architecture.