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Oct. 24, 2007

Columbia Wins Best Urban Campus Grounds Prize
Special from The Record

Gallery of Winning Campus Photos

This lawn

Click image to watch photo gallery

Columbia is getting a star – a Green Star Award, to be exact – from the Professional Grounds Management Society, which honored the University with the Grand Award for best in urban university grounds. In August, Columbia’s landscaping team, led by Richard Bussert, director of Landscaping and Grounds (profile below), submitted 26 photos for consideration. The images, taken by University photographer Eileen Barroso, showed campus scenes during the four seasons and highlighted a few of the landscaping challenges. The award will be presented on Oct. 27, by the society at its annual expo in Louisville, Ky.

Richard Bussert, director of Landscaping and Grounds for the Morningside Campus and Baker Field
Richard Bussert,
director of Landscaping and Grounds for the Morningside Campus and Baker Field

Profile: Richard Bussert

Who he is:
Director of Landscaping and Grounds, Morningside Campus and Baker Field

Start date at Columbia: January 2006

What he does:
Every morning, Bussert tours campus by foot, checking the condition of the lawns, noting any irregularities in the landscaping and hardscapes (concrete, granite and asphalt surfaces). He routinely examines the irrigation systems and ensures the grounds are presentable, particularly if there was an outdoor event the night before. If something is out of place, the grounds supervisor is alerted, and it becomes a topic during the grounds crews’ daily 9:00 a.m. meeting. Bussert also works with the sports turf manager at Baker Field and the supervisor at the Morningside Campus, who oversees the labor shop employees charged with event set-ups, tear-downs and furniture moves.

A good day on the job:
“At the end of a difficult day, before I leave campus, I may reflect on the beauty of the architecture and landscape for a moment, and amidst the activity of the lawns and plazas come to recognize a sense of pride in what I do and where I work.”

Before Columbia:
After graduating from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., Bussert worked on a golf course landscaping crew. He had always been fascinated with golf as a player, but working in the outdoors had a special appeal, he said. Bussert later attended Pennsylvania State University to pursue a specialized certificate program in turfgrass management, taking courses on botany, irrigation, plant pathology, tree identification and other related subjects. Before joining Columbia, he worked at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and, before that, in the construction and management of golf courses. Originally from the Midwest, Bussert has—until now—spent the majority of his life in upstate New York.

Best part of the job:
“As much as I like the grass, shrubs and trees, the best part of my job is the people I deal with on a daily basis: employees, coworkers, clients, contractors, [and] event people I have never previously met. The diversity of the people and the fact that my workload changes both daily and seasonally make this work challenging, exciting and rewarding.”

In his spare time:
Bussert still enjoys playing golf and loves spending time outdoors. At age 56, this is the first time in his life he is taking the subway to and from work. “I remind myself what Professor Kenneth Jackson said: ‘It only takes a week to become a New Yorker, really.” (Kenneth Jackson is Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University.)

– Written by Melanie A. Farmer. Photograph by Eileen Barroso.