In a formal signing ceremony on Sunday, October 26, involving representatives from Illinois College and the Starhill Forest Arboretum, Guy and Edie Sternberg, founding proprietors of the Starhill Forest Arboretum located in Petersburg, Ill., formalized their partnership with Illinois College. The Sternbergs’ gift will provide the college with an attractive setting for biological and environmental research, photography, student internships and other educational programming.
Axel Steuer, Illinois College president, said, “We will carry forward the Sternbergs’ educational vision for the Arboretum in perpetuity by creating an off-campus teaching and learning environment consistent with Illinois College’s educational mission of preparing young men and women for fulfilling lives of leadership and service.” He continued, “We look forward to providing a beautiful venue for educating young people and the general public on trees and other plantings, wildlife and environmental issues.”
Established in 1976 by Guy and Edie Sternberg, Starhill Forest Arboretum consists of 48 acres in southern Menard County, Ill. The name “Starhill” is derived from the German “Sternberg,” which can be translated into “Star Mountain.” The Arboretum is centered on a hill overlooking the valley of Rock Creek, two miles upstream from the confluence with the Sangamon River. The land has been farmed and grazed since the mid-19th century, when Abraham Lincoln traveled on the same road during his New Salem days.
Starhill Forest Arboretum is a classic forest arboretum with many naturalized plantings. The Arboretum’s primary scientific collection is its oak (Quercus) collection, which is the most comprehensive collection of this genus in the Midwest, including many rare species, varieties, cultivars, nothospecies, hybrids and more than 100 tropical oak taxa wintered in greenhouses throughout the property. A few oak trees on the property exceed 150 years of age, and several trees rank as State or County Champions.
In addition to the oak collection and other featured genera, approximately 150 other genera of woody plants are available for study, as well as herb and perennial landscapes, a native prairie garden, several provenance tests and a conifer plantation. Sixty species of woody plants grow spontaneously throughout the arboretum, and more than 600 taxa have been planted.
Guy and Edie Sternberg also have adjunct faculty positions at the college. Elizabeth Tobin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, said, “The Sternbergs will provide both classroom teaching and off-campus teaching and learning experiences consistent with our intent to provide a balanced liberal arts curriculum with a broad range of quality experiential learning opportunities.” She continued by saying, “Such programs will cross a broad range of academic departments at the college to include art, biology, literature and environmental studies.”
President Steuer said, “Our partnership with the Sternbergs and Starhill Forest also helps to affirm the college’s commitment to sharply reducing and eventually eliminating all of the college’s carbon footprint on the natural environment.” He continued, “Illinois College is part of The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to restabilize the earth’s climate.”
Guy Sternberg is one of North America’s most respected arborists and has received international recognition for his role in cultivating and studying trees. He is a registered Illinois landscape architect, tree consultant, writer, lecturer and photographer.
In a lecture given at Illinois College in December 2005, he said it is important “to learn to combine the biology, horticulture, history and art of trees, and to begin to see and feel them as you never have before.”
Guy Sternberg served on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff for 32 years, receiving the Honor Award for outstanding service, as well as an honorary adjunct research appointment to the Illinois State Museum Botany Department. He co-authored the landscape reference book Landscaping with Native Trees with Jim Wilson of the Victory Garden public television series, while his papers and photographs have been featured in numerous scientific journals, reference books and magazines.
Guy Sternberg has propagated and grown hundreds of species of trees, both native and non-native. He and his wife, Edie, will maintain Starhill Forest Arboretum until their deaths, at which time, the Arboretum and its extensive library and archives will be transferred to the college through a trust established by the Sternbergs.