“The love of plants is a seed that once sown, never dies,” said the late Gertrude Jekyll, an influential British garden designer, writer and artist.
If Stuart J. Sperber were alive today, he would wholeheartedly agree.
The former CEO of the Valley Crest Tree Company, Stuart had a passion for agriculture and was a pioneer of innovation who profoundly influenced the landscape and nursery industries. Stuart established Valley Crest Tree Company in 1960 on a three-acre parcel in the San Fernando Valley, never expecting that half a century later it would have become the largest producer of containerized specimen trees in the West–or that his footprint would have reshaped the future of the nursery business.
A lifetime green industry professional, Stuart also worked to
enhance the industry’s role in uniting public and private sectors on
legislation related to the green industry across California. Educating
about the detrimental effects of drought and disease on trees was one
of his primary missions.
Through the years, Stuart enjoyed a long-standing relationship with
his alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona. In 2007, the university awarded him
both the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and an Honorary Doctorate of
Science in recognition of his continuing contributions to the school
and to the industry at large. Previously, Stuart was honored by Cal
Poly Pomona’s College of Agriculture with its first Award of
When Stuart passed away in 2007, his absence created a deep void in
the landscape and nursery industry. His loving wife of 44 years, Leslie
Sperber Reid, found the perfect way to honor his memory–the
establishment of the Stuart J. Sperber Endowed Chair/Faculty Fellowship
for Sustainable Systems in support of the John T. Lyle Center for
“Stuart had been very involved with Cal Poly Pomona over the years,
and I couldn’t think of a better way to perpetuate his memory and honor
what he has done for the industry,” Leslie said.
The Lyle Center is blessed to be the recipient of such a gift.
“The establishment of this endowed chair is going to have a huge
impact on the Lyle Center–we’re very excited about it,” said Kyle
Brown, Lyle Center director. “Having a faculty member who is devoted
solely to the Lyle Center will greatly further the mission of the
center and contribute in one or more areas of sustainability.”
“We are definitely in a green era,” Brown added. “Everywhere we
turn, we’re hearing about green initiatives and environmental
sustainability. This generous gift has the opportunity to move the Lyle
Center to the next level in our understanding of environmental
sustainability and creating sustainable communities. This gift will
provide the resources to bring some terrific people to our campus in
this chairship–people who are going to breathe even more life into our
With $500,000 of the gift pledge already in place and full funding
expected in the next several years, the Lyle Center is well poised to
make a big impact in the field of environmental sustainability.
“While waiting for the full endowment to be realized, we will be
exploring ways to use available funds to host a series of activities
that will help raise awareness of the coming chairship, such as an
international conference to be held at the Lyle Center, symposia or
community outreach projects,” Brown added.
“If Stuart were here today, he would be over the moon about this
endowment,” Leslie said. “I’m hoping this gift will spur tremendous
growth at the center, and I can’t wait to see the results of all the
hard work and research. It will be wonderful to see how the Lyle
Center’s research will benefit our planet and all of our lives.”