September 25, 2023

Rockford – Robert E. Grese, Emeritus Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, has been elected to the Board of the Smeja Homestead Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation and conservation of the cultural landscape.

Grese has a Master of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a special interest in the use of natural landscaping in garden design. He is an expert on the works of renowned landscape designers Jens Jensen and O. C. Simonds, pioneers in using native plants and natural landscapes in designing cemeteries, parks, and private estates in the Midwest.

Grese retired as a professor and Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, University of Michigan, in 2020. Nichols Arboretum was designed by O. C. Simonds, who also laid out the Ann Arbor campus. Grese taught for 34 years in the landscape architecture program and is a strong advocate of ecologically-based design and natural area restoration. He is a member of the Alliance of Historic Landscape Preservation and the American Society of Landscape Architects and is an Honorary Director of the Garden Club of America.

“Bob is an incredible educator and knowledgeable in the principles of O. C. Simonds, the landscape designer who made our historic site special,” said Brian Reis, Executive Director of the Smeja Homestead Foundation. “He brings a depth of understanding to our organization that will be extremely helpful as we restore and rehabilitate the gardens and grounds and develop new programming in the coming years. I am delighted that he has joined the board.”

The Smeja Homestead Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation that promotes historic preservation and land conservation in northern Illinois. It is the owner of the Charles & Esta Barrett estate, a 1918 historic manor and farm with grounds designed by O. C. Simonds. The site is located on a bluff overlooking the Kishwaukee River southwest of Rockford, Illinois, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information or to book a tour visit