Farewell, Kate!

by the RORG Team

We are saying a fond farewell to the team member who first brought the Red Oak Rain Garden’s voice to life, the amazing Kate Gardiner. Over the past four years at University of Illinois Extension, Kate brought her talents to projects, ranging from documentation at the rain garden to helping build a new educational platform for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).

Back in college, when Kate was a student in Prof. Rob Kanter’s class, she asked “What kind of jobs are available that a person can do inside?” He replied that no one has ever asked that before! But, for us, Kate’s inside abilities were crucial to supporting the Red Oak Rain Garden in her role as Communications Manager. As a non-gardener, her perspective helped make RORG appeal to a broader audience and it’s been a valuable part of project success.

Of course, during the plant installation it was all hands on deck and we had no choice: Kate had to be outside. She hated it (she really did) but no one knew because of her professionalism. She was somehow able to smile and do what needed to be done. Making it more challenging, though, Kate broke her arm while attempting an Irish jig at a non-work event. The only upside? The first version of her cast bore a resemblance to the Siltsoxx erosion control!

Kate being stylish near the SiltSoxx. Photo by Eliana Brown.

Kate’s work on the garden began with social media. Extension Hort Educator Chris Enroth asked us while on the Good Growing Podcast “who is the sassy voice of the rain garden?” It’s definitely Kate Gardiner. Here are some of her best:


Eliana and Kate at RORG. Photo by Matt Wiley.

RORG Director Eliana Brown, who supervised Kate since she joined Extension in 2017, believes that “She has the capacity for greatness and everyone who meets her knows it. Not only is she bright, she has a keen sense of humor and lovely ability to connect with others.”

Former ANR Interim Dean Dennis Bowman, who Kate interviewed, describes her as “a freckled ray of sunshine that would always brighten my day.”

Kate’s first boss at the university, F&S Sustainability Director Morgan White, agrees: “She is always smiling and willing to help, and she brings creativity, joy, and professionalism to all she touches.”

Layne Knoche, RORG’s Landscape Designer, joined Extension just a few months after Kate. They share a love for Taylor Swift, so with each new album T-Swift created (especially 2019’s Lover), it was sure to be on constant repeat in the office. “Kate always brightened up the office with her smile, even in the dark days of winter when all of my plants were dormant and I was sad. We’d sing a verse (or two) of ‘Love Story’ and everything would be better. I didn’t just gain a great coworker, I gained a great friend.”

Kate and Layne outside at RORG dancing to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.

While most sustainability students like being outdoors, Kate is not the only person that prefers the comfort of the indoors but cares deeply for the environment.

She has the following encouragement for sustainability students that are like her:

“There are jobs out there and you can make a difference as long as your heart’s in it. And sometimes you may have to go outside!”

Kate Gardiner, indoor greenie

Eliana, Layne, and RORG wish Kate and Noah all the best in their next adventure in Atlanta. Thank you for all you’ve done for us! We will seriously miss you! ❤️

A last look:

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