Grovey Kind of Love
It may have culminated this summer with a revitalized green space near the south colleges, but it started with romance. In April 2006, a million-dollar gift from John ’63 and Anne d’Olier Mullen ’64 through the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund financed the beautification of the quadrangle bordered by Rice’s inner loop on the north, Sid Richardson College on the south, Baker and Will Rice Colleges on the east, and Hanszen College on the west. Filled with formal rows of cedar elm and live oak trees and appropriately called “The ‘John and Anne’ Grove,” it is where the Mullens met and where their friendship evolved into true love.
“I first noticed Anne when she walked out of the grove into the Hanszen quad in fall 1960,” John said. “We soon became close friends, and one of our favorite places to talk was up in the branches of Rice’s majestic oaks. This gift is to all the other Johns and Annes who will meet on the Rice campus and form enduring friendships.”
Over the years, the grove began to suffer from poor drainage and mosquitoes, and students gradually began seeking other places to gather.
“This is an area that has been underdeveloped and a little bit ignored,” said Facilities, Engineering and Planning (FE&P) Project Manager Larry Vossler, “so the Mullens wanted to do something to give back.”
During the renovation, FE&P tackled the grove’s problem of standing water by installing new drains. They also replaced the concrete sidewalks with decomposed granite paths, which now extend down the center of “The ‘John and Anne’ Grove” and along its edges. FE&P chose to use the permeable granite material to help safeguard the health of the existing trees, some of which were planted in the 1930s.
“With the age and beauty of the Grove, we wanted to do everything possible to ensure that the trees continue to flourish,” Vossler said. “Decomposed granite is better for the trees’ roots, since it lets air and water get through.”
Over the years, a few of the original trees had become diseased and were removed. FE&P replaced them with six cedar elms and four live oaks — in addition to planting a number of crepe myrtles alongside Will Rice and Hanszen Colleges — and the pervious paths will benefit them as well. St. Augustine grass was planted on either side of the center path.
Seating has not yet been placed in the area, but FE&P has turned to south college residents for input regarding their preferences. No decisions have been made, but the students are leaning toward picnic tables or benches with backs in hopes of using the grove as a peaceful place to eat, study or converse with friends.
“Our goal was to turn ‘The “John and Anne” Grove’ into a more accessible oasis for relaxation and recreation,” said Vossler. “I’d say we’re there.”