Creators of the S. Mark Taper Foundation Life Science Botanical Garden
Life Science Professors Pat Farris, Kate Kubach and James Rikel
Pat Farris, pictured above at right, has been interested in the natural world from her earliest moments, a passion which led her to earn a B.S. in Zoology and M.S. in Biology at Cal Poly, Pomona, where she studied the effects of fire on Coastal Sage Scrub bird communities. She began teaching at Pierce in 1986 after living in New Zealand for a year, where she completed an extra research project on endangered Blue Ducks.
As a Professor of Biology at Pierce, Farris designed and implemented many of the innovations of the Biology 3 program, a course which serves 700 students per semester. In the 1990s, she modernized the computer program in the biology lab, allowing students to work at their own pace while learning the more complex concepts of biology. Today, in 2016, she continues teaching biology and natural history and is the college's expert on birds.
Kate Kubach, pictured above cutting ribbon, taught majors' biology in the Life Science Department at Pierce College for 17 years. During that time she served as Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society faculty advisor. She was co-director of the Botanical Garden Committee, and served on the College Master Landscape Plan Committee.
Kubach received her B.A. and M.S. degrees in Biology at California State University, Northridge. She retired in 2010 and is married to Professor Emeritus James Rikel.
James Rikel, pictured above center, Professor Emeritus of Life Sciences, always played a key leadership role in his years at Pierce College. He taught human anatomy and physiology at Pierce from 1977 until his retirement in June of 2010. He was the Chair of Pierce's Life Sciences Department and also served as the Chair of Pierce's participatory governance body, the Pierce College Council. A natural leader, Rikel also served as Academic Senate Chair, Academic Senator, District Academic Senator, and President of the Faculty Association.
He was instrumental in the design and creation of the Center for the Sciences, a 109,000-square foot $57 million complex anchoring the northwest end of the Mall, completed in October 2010. Pierce's sciences came together in two state-of-the-art buildings housing Life Sciences (anatomy, biology, microbiology, marine biology and physiology), Physics and Planetary Sciences, Chemistry, Nursing, Animal and Veterinary Sciences and a veterinary clinic.
Rikel earned his A.B. at Whittier College and his Ph.D. at USC. He is married to Professor Emeritus Kate Kubach.
In late 1999, Farris, Kubach and Rikel discussed the idea that would become a showcase garden of Mediterranean climate plants at Pierce College: the S. Mark Taper Life Science Botanical Garden. The team worked with landscape architects and the Pierce College Foundation to design and fund the main elements of the two-acre garden in the center of campus, emphasizing that it should serve as a peaceful environment for students and the public, a habitat for small wildlife, and especially as an outdoor laboratory for biology courses.
The botanical garden was completed in two phases, the first half including a pond, sculptural fountain, bird habitat and California native plants, and the second phase demonstrating plants from Australia, which has a climate similar to California's.
In the first phase, the contouring and irrigation was installed through private donations, with the planting of hundreds of plants being done entirely by the team of Rikel, Kubach and Farris, with the help of many student and faculty volunteers.
At a ceremony celebrating the completion of Phase II on September 14, 2007, Bob Garber, then President of Pierce College, installed a plaque in the garden to commemorate the vision and tireless efforts of Pat Farris, Kate Kubach, and James Rikel to create this unique feature of Pierce College.
The plaque, featuring the images and names, left to right, of Kate Kubach, James Rikel, and Pat Farris, is inscribed:
September 2007, May all who enter this garden find the beauty and inspiration intended by its creators, three visionary Pierce College professors who dedicated themselves to making this garden a reality.
To read more about The S. Mark Taper Foundation Life Sciences Botanical Garden, click on "S. Mark Taper Garden" at left.