Cal Poly’s Leaning Pine Arboretum Receives $1 Million Donation for Upgrades and Improved Programming

Gift from longtime university supporters Kathleen Enz Finken (former provost) and Gerald Finken honors agriculture dean Andrew J. Thulin

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Kathleen Enz Finken, Cal Poly’s provost from 2012-19, and her husband, Gerald Finken, both longtime supporters of Cal Poly, have donated $1 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science’s Leaning Pine Arboretum. The gift was made in honor of Andrew J. Thulin, the college’s dean since 2013 and former head of the college’s Animal Science Department.

Nestled on five acres, the Leaning Pine Arboretum is Cal Poly’s living classroom for students, faculty and the community. The arboretum features a stunning array of landscape plants representing the world’s five Mediterranean climate regions.

This collection of landscaping serves multiple purposes for the university and community. An extension of the Cal Poly Horticulture and Crop Science Department’s Environmental Horticulture Science facility, the arboretum’s foremost goal remains education: a resource for independent study, research and workshops that promote horticulture best practices for Cal Poly students and faculty spanning numerous areas of study.

The gift will help fund the further integration of the arboretum into the fabric of the Cal Poly community through increased access, improved directional signage, programming and opportunities for education, while serving as a regional draw for visitors to the Central Coast and those within the horticulture industry.

This is not the first time that the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences has benefited from the Finkens’ generosity. The couple are avid supporters of the Swanton Pacific Ranch, Cal Poly’s vast, 3,200-acre property in Santa Cruz County whose diverse and fragile ecosystems — including Redwood forests, coastal grasslands, and a lush estuary — are the locus for student research and educational activities.

“The Finkens’ philanthropic support of Cal Poly and the community exemplifies their commitment to furthering educational opportunities for students and the environment,” Thulin said. “Just as their past support of Swanton Pacific Ranch allowed the college to enhance educational opportunities there, this donation will expand our offerings at the one-of-a-kind Leaning Pine Arboretum to incorporate the larger community.”

The arboretum has long been a crown jewel for the campus community as well as the greater San Luis Obispo Community. Over the years, many horticulture and botany students, faculty and staff have worked in the garden to maintain its beauty and importance. However, it is not sustainable under the college’s current budget scenario, nor is it fully accessible to many visitors. Infrastructure and accessibility improvements are needed, and the Finkens’ gift will help make those improvements a reality. 

“Dean Thulin has led the complete transformation of Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences by working tirelessly to raise funds in support of students and faculty, and to bring college facilities into the 21st century,” said Kathleen Enz Finken. “He is a high-energy, caring professional wholly invested in strengthening the learning environment and preparing students for successful careers. While the arboretum is personally important to Gerald and me, it will be upgraded as part of a larger enhancement to the college’s student-learning facilities, all of which will stand as a testament to the leadership of Dean Thulin and the support of numerous generous donors for many years to come.”

Said Thulin: “The Leaning Pine Arboretum will serve as an essential tool in addressing the increasing impacts from drought, climate change and wildfire which is demanding research, education and outreach on Mediterranean landscapes. As a regional destination, the Leaning Pine Arboretum can meet the need for Mediterranean climate horticultural education and training and give students valuable hands-on experience.”

About the Leaning Pine Arboretum

The five-acre Leaning Pine Arboretum, established within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences 50 years ago, is a distinctive representation of plant species that make up the five Mediterranean ecosystems worldwide. The student-managed botanic garden, surrounded by stunning vistas overlooking the Cal Poly campus, showcases a vast array of curated collections of flowers, plants and trees and provides an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in a thriving living laboratory of worldwide plant species. Learn more at

About Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, comprehensive polytechnic university. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is comprised of expert faculty members who take pride in their ability to transform academically motivated students into innovative professionals ready to solve the complex challenges associated with feeding the world in sustainable ways. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories — including organic and conventional crop land, orchards, vineyards, forests and rangeland — all of which provide the basis for Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology. It is the fifth-largest college of agriculture in the country with more than 4,100 undergraduate students. For more information, visit

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