Harrison Goudiss can still remember the first time he saw Furman’s campus. He was 14 years old when he attended summer camp at the institution.
“The impressive part is I actually remember the campus,” said Goudiss ‘14 (Atlanta, Ga.) “Even then, it was memorable enough to remember the lake, the fountains, and the rose garden.”
Three years later, when Goudiss was searching for a college, Furman’s beautiful setting was still on his mind.
“I had a chance to visit some larger state schools, but I was looking for a place where I could get away and go run or bike,” Goudiss said. “Furman does a great job of keeping everything clean and looking good. It influenced my decision to come here.”
Goudiss isn’t the only one who’s been taken in by Furman’s natural charm. In annual rankings crafted by Forbes, Travel and Leisure and other publications, the small liberal arts college in Greenville, S.C. is routinely recognized among America’s most beautiful universities.
The 750-acre campus owes much of its good looks to its modern architecture, tree-lined streets, and vast amount of green spaces. One of the most vivid scenes resides just past Furman’s front gates, where campus visitors are immediately greeted by a cascading water fountain. The school also features a Florentine bell tower, an Asian garden, a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, 13 miles of paved trails, and an 18-hole golf course.
However, some of Furman’s beauty can be attributed to its basic DNA thanks to a great natural setting. The university’s signature space is a spring-fed lake that includes Paris Mountain as part of its magnificent backdrop. The campus also gets a dramatic makeover every fall when the foliage begins to change.
“My favorite time of year is when the seasons start to change and the leaves on (Furman Mall) change colors,” said Mary Van Wert ‘14 (Peach Tree City, Ga.). “Driving through campus is always beautiful.”
That’s not to say everything just happens on its own. Furman’s groundskeepers play a pivotal role in maintaining the school’s setting, from preserving the Jane Earl Furman Rose Garden to clearing leaves before major campus events.
Furman’s green space is a prime example of their exemplary work. Throughout the year, the lawn is a vibrant green, leading some members of the school’s surrounding community to conclude that the grass must be painted. But Furman’s groundskeepers don’t take shortcuts.
“We don’t use dye in our spray tanks,” said David Manning, Furman’s campus ground supervisor.
Instead, Manning and his team start with a great blend of grass seed. From there, it’s a regimen of irrigation, fertilization, and aeration. Manning said the finished product takes hours of hard work.
It’s something Manning and his staff take pride in.
“When I’m out and people are talking about how amazing the campus is, my wife says, ‘I bet you like that,’” he said. “Well, I do like that. That’s what I want to happen. It’s definitely a love affair.”
The rose garden, which is located between the Trone Student Center and the Daniel Dining Hall, gets plenty of attention from Furman’s grounds crew, as well. The garden features a 25,000-square foot area, which is home to 30 to 40 different varieties of roses. That doesn’t include a 2,000-square foot upper garden that is set aside for one variety of rose, givenchy.
Sheree Wright, Furman’s master rosarian and self-proclaimed rose geek, is responsible for monitoring the garden. Wright is modest about her contribution. If you ask her, the real star is the grass.
“What we do beautifies the campus,” Wright said. “But you need good-looking grass in order for the flowers to look good.”
Others might disagree. Mention the rose garden to any student or alumni, and they’ll mention that you can pick up free, freshly cut roses off the hedges. Wright and her colleagues leave the flowers for students as they cut across the garden between classes.
Cutting the roses isn’t just good for student morale. It’s good for the roses.
“When the rose petals start to fall apart, that’s called a blast,” said Bruce Fox, supervisor of the grounds’ horticulture department. “We try to catch them just before they do that. It keeps tricking those rose bushes into producing more roses.”
The rose garden, like other campus scenes, plays a pivotal role in attracting new students to Furman. Though the school’s academics are the ultimate draw for any student, the setting doesn’t dissuade anyone.
“I just fell in love when I looked at Furman,” said John Kiser ‘14 (Atlanta, Ga.) “I loved the size and the beauty, and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”