By Ursula Thomas Miller
In the world of horticulture, Xavier’s Walter Bonvell has earned top honors.
Bonvell, one of three grounds foremen at Xavier, recently earned the designation of Certified Grounds Manager from the Baltimore-based Professional Grounds Management Society, or PGMS. Bonvell is one of only 124 professional grounds managers nationwide to have the designation.
“It’s a very select group,” says Jenny Smith, associate executive director for PGMS. “There are a limited number of grounds professionals who meet the criteria.”
Candidates must have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in a horticulture-related field and/or a certain number of years of on-the-job experience, including work as a supervisor. Candidates also must pass a two-part test. Founded in 1911, PGMS is one of the oldest and best known of the industry’s professional associations.
Bonvell, who earned his BS in horticulture at Eastern Kentucky University, has been in the grounds management business for 35 years, the last 28 at Xavier. He is responsible for maintaining the grounds within Xavier’s academic and residential malls, University Drive and the
Gallagher Student Center, says Bonvell’s manager, Dick Menke.
Bonvell is active in PGMS as national and regional board member. He also is on the organization’s sustainability committee, which is raising awareness among grounds managers about the value of green roofs and other eco-friendly techniques meant to conserve water and reduce pollution from fertilizers.
“He understands that grounds maintenance is more than cutting grass and trimming bushes,” says Robert Sheeran, associate vice president for facility management. “It’s about maintaining an environment that is home to thousands of students and where hundreds of employees work each day. Managing the green space on an urban campus to the high level that we do at Xavier is quite a challenge. As you walk around the campus you can see the ownership and the passion he has for his work.”
Xavier’s 148-acre campus includes about 20 acres of open space, eight of which are athletic fields. The grounds staff maintains about 50 acres of turf, 25 acres of display beds and 30 acres of paved areas.