Key takeaways

  • Updating the minimal irrigation system in the garden has been one of the top priorities.
  • Improvements made possible by the gift will include a new hydrology system using reclaimed water, a wetland garden and safer bridge crossings.

UCLA has received a $1.5 million gift from Charlie and Peggy Norris to further the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden’s waterworks project.

“We are grateful to Charlie and Peggy Norris for their vision and support, which benefits the entire UCLA community and the public,” said Tracy Johnson, dean of life sciences and holder of the Keith and Cecilia Terasaki Presidential Endowed Chair in the Division of Life Sciences. “Like the garden, the true impact of their gift will flourish and have impact for generations to come.”

Renewing the recirculating stream that was created in the 1970s and its minimal irrigation system, which was built in the 1950s, have long been the garden’s most urgent priorities. Improvements made possible because of this gift will include a new hydrology system that uses reclaimed water, a wetland garden, safer bridge crossings, replacements for broken pipelines and individualized water delivery to separate gardens. 

“The generosity of Charlie and Peggy Norris allows us the unique opportunity to bring sustainable practices to the garden and greater UCLA campus,” said Victoria Sork, director of the garden and herbarium and a distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We couldn’t be prouder of this next chapter in the garden’s story.”

Since 1929, the 7.5-acre garden has been a treasured resource for scientists, students and community members who appreciate both its remarkable botanical specimens as well as its tranquil beauty. Named after the pioneering botanist and former director who shaped its vision as an outdoor laboratory, the garden is home to around 3,000 species of plants, one of the largest Torrey Pines in the world and more than 60 species of palms — not to mention numerous turtles, birds and other animals. 

Longtime friends of UCLA — in 2014, they made the 70-seat Charles and Peggy Norris Global Conference Room a reality in the Edie & Lew Wasserman Building — the couple were glad to leave another lasting mark on campus.

“The garden is a rare green space in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles that means so much to so many,” said Charlie and Peggy Norris. “That includes us. We are delighted to help this beloved jewel shine even brighter.”