New building to honor daughter’s memory at Arboretum

Elizabeth Mary Wolf Environmental Learning Center opens this fall

This fall, construction on the Elizabeth Mary Wolf Environmental Learning Center will be complete. Located within the gates of the Arboretum Teaching Nursery, the modern indoor-outdoor facility will serve as a public program space, a dynamic hub for visitor and volunteer events, and a staging area for students in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s innovative environmental leadership program – Learning by Leading™.

“We are thrilled to see this learning center, and the Wolf family’s wishes, become a reality,” said Kathleen Socolofsky, assistant vice chancellor and director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

Black and white image of Elizabeth Mary Wolf.
Elizabeth Mary Wolf, UC Davis alumna
Named to Honor Promising Young Educator

Elizabeth Mary Wolf, a UC Davis alumna, had a passion for education. She graduated from UC Davis in 1972 with a degree in English and worked as a student teacher at McClatchy High School in Sacramento. In 1975, she earned a master’s degree in special education from California State University, San Francisco. Then, in 1977 she moved to Davis for a job teaching deaf students in Woodland at Green Gate Center and Douglass Junior High School. Tragically, she died soon after moving and before her love of educating others could be fully realized.

After Elizabeth’s death, her parents Robert and Lorraine Wolf established an estate gift to support a project at UC Davis honoring their daughter and only child. In April 2008 – after the passing of Elizabeth’s parents – UC Davis first learned of this gift and received the funds. Multiple campus organizations proposed plans for how they could be used. In the end it was the Arboretum and Public Garden’s recommendation for a student and community educational facility, located in the Arboretum, that best fulfilled the intent of the Wolfs’ wishes and Elizabeth’s passion for education.

Did you know Elizabeth?

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is incredibly grateful for the Wolf family’s gift and would like to learn more about Elizabeth. To date, volunteers helped gather public records to learn more about her life and legacy, but that doesn’t compare to first-person accounts from friends, family members and colleagues. If you knew her, we would be grateful for an opportunity to communicate with you. Please reach out to us via email to start the conversation at

Construction Progress

Construction on the foundation for the facility began this last winter while construction of the building itself is currently underway offsite. When complete, the five modular building sections that make up the Elizabeth Mary Wolf Environmental Learning Center will be moved into the nursery via a crane and joined together on location this summer. The public will have the opportunity to visit as soon as this fall, when the facility debuts. 

“When the Learning Center opens, we’ll have an indoor-outdoor public program space and a classroom for visitor, volunteer and student-led events,” says Socolofsky. “We believe this facility will fulfill the vision of Elizabeth's parents to honor their daughter and her passion for education.”

The opening of the Elizabeth Mary Wolf Environmental Learning Center will usher in a new era of increased engagement and education for the public. The Arboretum and Public Garden invited the public to help “Launch the Learning Center” during its annual spring fundraising season. To date, donations exceeded expectations and will provide funding for furnishings; new demonstration plantings; and environmental education programs for the public created by student leaders.

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