Baylor Dedicates Garden of Contentment at Armstrong Browning Library

  • Garden of Contentment
    Armstrong Browning Library's Garden of Contentment represents the final piece in fulfilling Dr. A.J. Armstrong's original vision for the library.
  • Garden Architectural Rendering
    Architect's rendering of the view from Waco Hall of the Garden of Contentment at Armstrong Browning Library.
  • Garden Dedication Ceremony
    Rain moved the dedication ceremony of the Garden of Contentment at Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library indoors to another of ABL's beautiful locations: McLean Foyer of Meditation.
Sept. 17, 2012

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Contact: Lori Fogleman, (254) 710-6275

WACO, Texas (Sept. 14, 2012) -- Baylor University and community leaders, former students and generous library supporters gathered together Sept. 14 to dedicate Armstrong Browning Library's "Garden of Contentment," a beautifully landscaped, versatile outdoor gathering space and garden, the final piece in fulfilling Dr. A.J. Armstrong's original vision for the library.

"The Garden of Contentment is an extension of Dr. Armstrong's great vision and passion for literature," said Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of University Libraries. "We are honored to be a small part of the legacy he began 100 years ago when he joined the Baylor faculty."

Sue and Ted Getterman of Waco and Waldo and Minnie Lee Hill of Houston provided generous lead gifts for the garden, bringing Armstrong's vision - formed six decades ago - to life. The family of Shepherd Spencer Neville Brown of Waco made provision for the garden's fountain, which will become one of the most recognizable features. Additional donors sponsored 12 teak benches and other furnishings throughout the garden. Many of the garden's supporters are members of the Armstrong Browning Library Guardian Angels, the organization that provides for the facility, its collections and its ability to welcome the public for free.

Guests enjoyed a celebratory tea reception prior to the dedication ceremony, which was held inside Armstrong Browning Library due to rain. During the reception, Orr expressed deep gratitude for the remarkable addition to campus and shared a saying of Dr. Armstrong: "Life is beautiful as you fill it with things to remember."

Guests at the tea included several of Dr. Armstrong's former students, lead donors to the project, the Guardian Angels, several members of the Libraries Board of Advisors and members of the Baylor and Waco communities.

"Armstrong Browning Library would not exist at Baylor were it not for the poetry of Robert Browning and the vision of A.J. Armstrong," said Rita Patteson, director of Armstrong Browning Library, as she shared the rich history of Dr. Armstrong's vision for a special place of learning, meditation and reflection.

"To install our Garden of Contentment and complete yet another of Dr. Armstrong's dreams is monumental, and I am so proud we are able to accomplish this during this centennial and bicentennial year."

Shortly after the construction of Armstrong Browning Library was completed in 1951, Dr. Armstrong, longtime chairman of the Baylor English department, wrote in a letter, "(A)fter dedicating the Library in a blaze of glory, we (realized) we had practically not a penny left for landscaping." In that letter, Armstrong envisioned "an outstandingly lovely portion planned for the grounds...to include beautifully designed benches where people can sit and meditate and absorb the beauty of the garden."

Located on the east side of the library across Seventh Street from Waco Hall, the Garden of Contentment's grounds feature the fountain and teak benches, as well as brick sidewalks, crushed granite paths, greenery and softly lit trees in the evening. The center area is large enough to seat 500 people for presentations and ceremonies. Special care was taken to ensure the preservation of the established large trees.

"The garden makes a very significant addition to the beauty and meaning of Baylor's campus," said Kirstie Blair, The Margaret Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies. "A great deal of thought went into the Garden of Contentment, and a great deal of thinking will happen there as scholars and artists from Baylor, from Waco and from all over the world, like myself, will visit and use this facility for inspiration in their work."

Sue Wright, chairwoman of the libraries Board of Advisors, brought the event to a close with a fitting benediction poem recognizing the beauty of the garden's dedication.

    "Pippa's Song" by Robert Browning

    The year's at the spring
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hill-side's dew-pearled
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn;
    God's in his Heaven -
    All's right with the world!

The Garden of Contentment dedication is one part of a dual centennial celebration throughout the fall - "Celebrating a Poet's Life and a Professor's Dream" - commemorating the 200th anniversary of Robert Browning's birth and the 100th anniversary of Dr. Armstrong arriving at Baylor University.

For more information about the Garden of Contentment and opportunities to support Baylor University Libraries, contact Trey Hagins, director of development, at Trey_Hagins@baylor.edu or (254) 710-2561. For more about Armstrong Browning Library, contact Patteson at Rita_Patteson@baylor.edu or (254) 710-4967 or visit the library's website at www.baylor.edu/abl.

About Baylor University

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

About Armstrong Browning Library

Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library is a 19th-century research center and "library of record" dedicated to the study of the lives and works of Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The library houses the world's largest collection of Browning material and other fine collections of rare 19th-century books, manuscripts and works of art. Armstrong Browning Library is dedicated to acquiring, preserving and providing access to these materials and its other collection and promoting opportunities for the study, appreciation and understanding of the Brownings and the wider field of 19th-century literature and culture by the Baylor community, the larger academic community and the general public. For more information, visit www.browninglibrary.org.

About the Baylor University Libraries

The Baylor University Libraries connect people with ideas in support of teaching, learning, scholarship and academic distinction through its Central Libraries and special collections libraries - Armstrong Browning Library, the Electronic Library, The Texas Collection and the W.R. Poage Legislative Library.

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