D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center – the Story behind the Names
Renovation of a circa 1900 barn into the Johnson Education Center was made possible through generous gifts that honor individuals for their relationship to the property and for their commitment to D&R Greenway’s mission to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic.
Opened to the public in 2004 as a resource for land preservation and stewardship and as a place where people come together for community and conservation, the Johnson Education Center forever recognizes these special people. For the history of this property, click here.
The Johnson Education Center
General Robert Wood Johnson purchased the property in 1948 to create a home with his third wife, Evie. D&R Greenway purchased the property from the estate heirs. Formerly part of the Edgerstoune estate, the property served as the lower farm, originally stretching from Route 206 to Rosedale Road. A private secondary school, the Hun School, includes the original estate home; the Johnson Education Center is in a renovated barn that belonged to the estate. General Johnson was a prominent figure nationally and in New Jersey. He built Johnson & Johnson into a world-renowned company and gave new meaning to the need for corporations to serve the public interest. His generosity created one of the nation’s most significant philanthropies – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – dedicated to improving health care for all Americans. The Johnson Education Center and its largest public room, the second floor RWJ Auditorium, are named in his honor.
First Floor Public Rooms
The Charles M. Hartman Preservation Hall
A strategic thinker and visionary, Charles “Chuck” Hartman left a lasting mark during a transitional time for D&R Greenway. Chair of the Board of Trustees from 2001 – 2004, he led the organization through the early visioning and planning for creation of the Johnson Education Center. Chuck brought an entrepreneurial approach that focused on opportunities and challenges with the end result being a permanent home for D&R Greenway. He engaged leaders from the business community as advisors on impactful decisions. Chuck helped lead an international partnership with sister land trusts in Mexico and Guatamala, highlighting the importance of protecting multiple environments across the continent for migrating birds. The lobby was named for Chuck through a gift from his friends Thomas and Avril Moore.
The Larson Land Preservation Wall
The Larson sisters preserved their family farm with D&R Greenway. Devastated after selling part of their land to a person who turned out to be a developer, they came to D&R Greenway to ensure that what remained would be protected forever. Their experience with D&R Greenway met all their goals for preservation and created a lifetime fund to support their retirement. It also allowed the sisters to establish a charitable foundation that continues to support land preservation. A gift from the Larson Family Foundation established the digital display wall in the lobby. Here, pictures and videos tell the story of land preservation and its importance to all who visit the Johnson Education Center.
Olivia Rainbow Gallery
The gallery of youthful art on the first floor is devoted to the works of young artists, whose imagination captures the magical beauty of the outdoors. It is dedicated in memory of Olivia Michelle Kuenne, whose youthful eye and mature hand belied her old soul. This gallery inspires a conservation ethic with the art and photography of children and their fresh view of nature. Partners that exhibit here include local schools and art students, and nonprofit groups such as Eden Autism Institute and the Arts Council of Princeton. Annually, it hosts fifth grade contest winners of Species on the Edge, in partnership with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ.
Evelyn V. Johnson Stewardship Room
This first floor multipurpose room is named for Evie, the wife of General Robert Wood Johnson who lived on the property until her death in 1996. She was a dancer and supporter of the arts. This room is a part of the Marie L. Matthews Art Gallery, displaying rotating exhibits that highlight D&R Greenway’s mission and inspire a conservation ethic. This room was named by the Evelyn V. Johnson – Thomas Gardner Paynter Foundation.
The Marie L. Matthews Gallery
Beginning in the lobby and encompassing all of the public rooms in the Johnson Education Center, the Marie L. Matthews Gallery showcases the beauty and importance of the natural world with thought-provoking and inspiring exhibits. Named by her family, the Marie L. Matthews Gallery celebrates Marie’s love of art and nature. An accomplished photographer, Marie’s exposure to ever-changing scenery in this country and in Europe and the Far East, where she traveled extensively with her husband Ed, enabled her to develop a unique eye for the beauty found in natural scenes. Her photography reflects her ability to see the unique moment when light captures nature in a special glow.
First Floor Staff Offices
The Harper Conference Room
The administrative conference room is named for John and Margee Harper who led the way in raising funds to purchase and preserve the former General Robert Wood Johnson estate. They were the originators of what today has become Greenway Meadows park and D&R Greenway’s Conservation Campus including the Johnson Education Center. Princeton residents, their proactive support of D&R Greenway has benefitted many people. The room was named through a gift from a group of their friends and family who wished to honor their long-term commitment to the community through D&R Greenway.
The Office of the President & CEO
in Honor of Linda J. Mead
Linda J. Mead became the staff leader of D&R Greenway in 1997. She led the organization through phenomenal growth, from a rented office in a Sears Roebuck catalog house to its headquarters at the Johnson Education Center. Her passion for land preservation led to many of D&R Greenway’s most impactful acquisitions including signature Princeton lands, St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell and thousands of acres of farmland in central and southern New Jersey. Her creative solutions-oriented approach to land preservation resulted in Land College as a teaching tool for land trusts across the nation. Her long-term vision created partnerships in health and the arts through D&R Greenway’s Conservation Campus. The President & CEO’s Office was named by a former staff member in recognition of Linda’s leadership and served as the initial kick-off gift for the campaign to renovate the ca. 1900 barn into the Johnson Education Center.
Second Floor Public Rooms
The Olukotun Bridge to Preservation
This second floor catwalk bridge across the lobby is named by former Trustee Oye Olukotun and his wife Judy. The Olukotons preserved two of their own properties in Hopewell, New Jersey – the first was the 100th property protected by D&R Greenway in 2004 and the second was the 200th preserved in 2008! Their personal commitment to preservation is celebrated in the long view from the bridge to the outdoors where children play in Greenway Meadows park.
The Goldman Family Library
The Goldman Family Library was named through a generous gift by the Goldman Family – Richard and Cheryl and their children Josh and Emily. Rich Goldman is an astute land use attorney who has brought vision and a strategic approach to land preservation as a long-time Trustee and Board Chair from 2004-2009. Fondly known as “Pro Bono Man,” Rich has provided thoughtful and creative legal expertise to D&R Greenway’s preservation transactions, donating his time and skills to close on more than 200 properties. He was Chair of the Board of Trustees when D&R Greenway opened the Johnson Education Center in 2006, establishing it as a premier place that connects land preservation with art, Rich’s other interest. His wise counsel continues to guide D&R Greenway as political and economic constraints to open space preservation continue to emerge.
The Jay Vawter Collection: An Art and Education Exhibit
A stunning collection of hand carved decoys by master championship carvers is located in the Goldman Family Library. These were donated by D&R Greenway supporter Jay Vawter. Once a neighbor to D&R Greenway, he came to know the organization by walking the trails at Greenway Meadows. He generously donated his carefully crafted collection and the exquisite exhibit cases so that they could serve as an educational tool to teach visitors about conservation of these species, many of which can be found in New Jersey’s Abbott Marshlands and along waterways throughout the Delaware and Raritan river watersheds.
Samuel M. Hamill, Jr. Partner Resource Station
The collection of books and materials found in the Goldman Family Library on the second floor are accessible to anyone who would like to learn about the natural world and D&R Greenway’s vision. Technical books and resources are available to review upon request. As one of D&R Greenway’s founders, Sam brought careful land use planning expertise and forward thinking to D&R Greenway. His vision as a planner supported the fledgling organization’s proactive pursuit of preservation opportunities that created greenways throughout central New Jersey. This area is named through a gift by Bob and Stephanie Harris.
The Neil Upmeyer Partnership Room
This second floor meeting room is named for Neil Upmeyer who was a Trustee and Board chair from 1998 – 2000. A thoughtful political analyst, he was instrumental in establishing D&R Greenway Land Trust as the effective and well-run nonprofit environmental organization that it is today. Under his leadership, the bold step was taken to purchase the Greenway Meadows property and renovate the historical barn to serve as the land trust’s headquarters. That strategic decision made by the Trustees sitting in a circle of lawn chairs in the old horse barn is fondly remembered and was pivotal in bringing D&R Greenway to the next level of leadership as a nonprofit land trust. Coventry Farm on the Great Road in Princeton was also preserved under Neil’s leadership, a stunning property and open space vista that continues to inspire. The Upmeyer Room was named for Neil through a gift from his friends Bob and Stephanie Harris.
Named Beams throughout the Upper Floors
Discover for yourself the named beams throughout the upper floors of the Johnson Education Center. Some are whimsical, with one honoring a cow that inspired a veterinary career and another sharing inspiration from an Emily Dickinson poem about bees. Some honor people whose influence was felt on the property when it was owned by General Robert Wood Johnson. These beams, like the people they honor, support the Johnson Education Center and the inspirations that take place here, resulting in conservation for all to enjoy.
Outdoors: Conservation Campus Features
A campus is a place where people go to learn. Conservation is about sustaining resources. Together, they create an exciting place – where care and nurture for people and nature happens every day.
Gardens and terraces surrounding the Johnson Education Center contribute to the campus feel of this property that is a living example of D&R Greenway Land Trust’s mission to preserve and care for land, and inspire a conservation ethic, now and forever.
The Ellsworth Terrace
The Ellsworth Terrace, located directly off the lobby of the Johnson Education Center and overlooking the ballfields and playground at Greenway Meadows park, was named by Shawn & Robbie Ellsworth in honor of Shawn’s father John A. Ellsworth, a charter member of the Mercer County Park Commission serving from the mid-1960s to 1980. An avid baseball player and Little League coach, John appreciated the importance of providing parkland for families. Greenway Meadows park was permanently preserved in 2001 by D&R Greenway. Public and private partners included the New Jersey Green Acres Program, Mercer County, Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Friends of Princeton Open Space, Bristol-Myers Squibb and dozens of individuals and families. Preserved open space and parkland strengthens communities by providing, quite literally, “common ground”—a continuity of experience with the land shared by everyone living in the community and extending across the generations.
The Frederick P. and Carroll King Terrace
The Frederick P. and Carroll King Terrace, located under the large 300-year-old oak tree looking out over Greenway Meadows park, was named by Carroll King in memory of her husband. The location of this terrace reflects Fred King’s love of open space, beautiful vistas, and wonderful walking and playing areas. This terrace was dedicated in Fred’s honor on June 9, 2007.
Meredith’s Garden is a lush native plant garden adjacent to the King Terrace, named in memory of Meredith Peterson by her family and friends. Meredith was an avid gardener. She was a volunteer on D&R Greenway’s Gala Committee. The butterfly sculpture recognizes her appreciation for the natural world. The majority of plants found in the garden are New Jersey native species with the exception of the French lavender that came directly from Meredith’s own garden and that surrounds the succulent Circle of Life sculpture.
The Edward T. Cone Grove
The Edward T. Cone Grove is filled with native herbs, shrubs, grasses, ferns and trees. Formerly approved as a building lot, its preservation by the Edward T. Cone Foundation as part of D&R Greenway’s Conservation Campus honors Ed’s love of nature. Edward Toner Cone (1917 – 2004) was a prolific composer and a highly-regarded music theorist. A resident of Princeton for more than 60 years, he taught music theory, composition, and history at Princeton University. Three of his books about Western music are modern classics. Ed enjoyed walking in Princeton parks with his beloved dogs while listening for songbirds, his favorite being the Carolina wren. He composed a song cycle, New Weather, drawing on four poems by Paul Muldoon, including Wind and Tree.
Wind and Tree
By Paul Muldoon
In the way that most of the wind
Happens where there are trees,
Most of the world is centred
Often where the wind has gathered
The trees together,
One tree will take
Another in her arms and hold.
Their branches that are grinding
It is no real fire.
They are breaking each other.
Often I think I should be like
The single tree, going nowhere,
Since my own arm could not and would not
Break the other. Yet by my broken bones
I tell new weather.
The Chuck Hartman Pencil Sculpture Garden
The Chuck Hartman Pencil Sculpture Garden behind the Johnson Education Center was established by his wife Mary Lou in Chuck’s memory. These wooden pencil sculptures were designed by close friend Walter Channing, once married to actress Carol Channing, who noted that Chuck was always ready for business with a pencil behind his ear!
The Founder’s Garden
The Founder’s Garden near the Johnson Education Center is anchored by a John Henry sculpture donated by Bill Swain who was an early supporter of D&R Greenway and land preservation. As a real estate entrepreneur, Bill provided valuable insight into the process of land acquisition. Through a gift made by David Blair in memory of his wife, Rosemary Blair, a co-founder of D&R Greenway, this garden is now known as our “Founders Garden” in her memory and in honor of all four founders: Rosemary Blair, Bob Johnston, Jim Amon and Sam Hamill. As quoted from Margaret Mead, a renowned anthropologist, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail
In autumn 2010, the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail was dedicated in Greenway Meadows park. The mile-long Trail begins at an allée of century-old hybrid sycamore trees, moves up the hill past newly planted American chestnuts and loops a meandering mile down through a meadow. Forty-nine poems feature the work of poets from fourteen countries and cultures. The common thread is the poet’s close read of some aspect of the natural world. The Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail speaks to the symbiotic relationship between art and nature. Please visit Greenway Meadows to fully experience the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail. The trail is easily accessed from the lower parking lot at Greenway Meadows. Walk up the path, past the playground and soccer fields. Look for an allee of large Hybrid Sycamore Trees to start exploring the Poetry Trail.
In Honor of Ted Thomas
The bicycle rack has been donated in honor of long time Trustee and master trail builder Ted Thomas who remains an active volunteer and open space advocate. An informational kiosk has also been dedicated to Ted by his family at D&R Greenway’s Dry Run Creek Trail in West Amwell.
Living trees celebrate life. Through a gift from his friends, a living tree has been planted at the Conservation Campus in memory of Paul Rodewald who was an avid birder. His wife Adrienne is a devoted D&R Greenway volunteer and son-in-law Peter Dawson is a D&R Greenway Trustee.