Everyday People: Casey Sclar

The new Arboretum director is ready to dig in.

Casey Sclar sitting near tree

Campus: University Park

Claim to fame: Recently named the H.O. Smith Endowed Director of The Arboretum at Penn State.

Hometown: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Describe yourself in three words: “Unabashed tree hugger.”

Hobbies: Hiking and camping, plus long walks with his yellow lab, Gromit, especially along The Arboretum’s pet-friendly trails.

 

Life's Work   
“Horticulture today is an art, a science, and a business,” says Casey Sclar, who has spent 30 years in the industry. “But public gardens, including at colleges and universities, should also be a place to feel welcome.” Prior to starting his new role leading The Arboretum at Penn State in August, Sclar served for more than a decade as executive director of the American Public Gardens Association, where he created a benchmarking system by surveying and sharing data from more than 600 public gardens around the world. Before that, he spent 15 years at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., leading its sustainability programs and looking after the health of plants on its 1,000-plus acres.

Science Matters 
Sclar, who has master’s and doctoral degrees in entomology, has focused his research on plant problems: pests, weeds, and diseases. That’s just one reason he’s excited about the Pollinator and Bird Garden, which opened in 2021, and its potential for academic collaboration. Sclar, who serves as vice president of the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, is also an affiliate professor with Penn State’s Department of Entomology.

More Than "Green"   
Sclar says that sustainability initiatives at The Arboretum extend beyond environmental concerns: Efforts are focused on engaging the community, economic resilience, and highlighting the health benefits of the space.

In God's Country   
During his relocation to State College, Sclar brought a cutting from an original stand of Joshua trees that he grew up with in California. “They were so big,” he recalls. “I remember playing around in them as a kid.”

Perennial Visits
Sclar is eyeing future expansion, including indoor spaces that would help The Arboretum become more of a year-round destination: “I’d love for people to find respite and solace on the most inclement weather days of the year.”