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College of Environment and Design

Founders Memorial Garden Receives Generous Donation

The University of Georgia Founders Memorial Garden has received two Italian marble statues through a generous donation.

The statues are a gift from Nina Sledge Burke, the great-granddaughter of the first president of the Ladies Garden Club of Athens, which was established in 1891 as America's first garden club.

“This generous gift is filled with symbolism, and I think it will make a difference on campus,” said Sonia Hirt, Dean of the College of Environment and Design.

The statues have Italian origins and were given as a gift to Burke’s great-grandmother, who placed them in the garden of her Athens residence. Eventually, they were inherited by Burke after the passing of her father and uncle.

The statues have resided with Burke in Atlanta, but she was determined to bring them back to Athens and felt the Founders Memorial Garden was where they belonged.

“These statues are being dedicated in honor of my great-grandmother and also in honor of my father and uncle, who served in World War II,” said Burke. “The statues have been members of the family, and now they are going back home.”

The Founders Memorial Garden was designed throughout the 1940s and early 1950s by landscape architecture faculty at UGA. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a memorial for the 12 women who founded the Ladies Garden Club of Athens and as a memorial for those who served in World War II.

“The garden has a special place in the hearts and souls of numerous garden club chapters across Georgia as well as members of every garden club in America,” said Founders Memorial Garden director Cari Goetcheus. “With its 85-year-old history, Mrs. Burke knew this garden was absolutely the place where these statues needed to be.”


Burke has been a member of the Peachtree Garden Club of Atlanta for 30 years and has worked as a landscape design consultant for garden clubs across America. She has been recognized for several awards, including the Garden Club of America Zone VIII Historic Preservation Award, which she received for her outstanding achievements in the field of historic preservation.

“I would say that Mrs. Burke has lived up to her great-grandmother’s expectations,” Goetcheus said with a smile.

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602