Gardening By The Numbers

Stanley Bezuszka, SJ, helped create 'new math,' but on campus he's known for his green thumb

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

Prof. Emeritus Stanley Bezuszka, SJ, may have been one of the creators of "new math" in the 1950s and '60s, but these days he is known more around campus for another creation: the flower garden at St. Mary's Hall.

For over 15 years, Fr. Bezuszka has cultivated the colorful display, located between St. Mary's Hall and O'Neill Library. It has been a site for Commencement family photographs, a place of prayer and an eye-pleasing attraction for passersby.

Director of the BC Mathematics Institute, author of many textbooks and enrichment materials, and winner of several awards for his contributions to the field, Fr. Bezuszka is not about to start a new life as a horticulturist. Still, he spends each morning and evening tending to the garden and feeding the birds, and enjoys arranging flowers according to "when they bloom and which colors and textures go together." It is, he says, a welcome contrast to the rigidity of his discipline.

"I don't need a hobby, I have a garden," Fr. Bezuszka said, "and this satisfies my artistic yearnings. The overriding goal is to have things in bloom all the time."

Fr. Bezuszka began planting vegetables in the spot 30 years ago, but found the produce unattractive - "besides," he chuckled, "I had lost too many friends trying to pedal off all the zucchini that grew." He switched to flowers so the entire University community could enjoy the results.

Fr. Bezuszka prunes the rose bushes in the St. Mary's Hall garden.
The garden provides a constant splash of color for most of the year, even into the fall, when geraniums, chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbage appear. Flowers like Betty Prior and Tea Roses flourish in two of the beds and attract passersby with their beauty and strong fragrance, said Fr. Bezuszka, who sometimes cuts the roses for visitors. Other varieties of annuals and perennials in the garden include salvia, sedum, ivy, holly, begonias, marigolds, impatiens, euonymus, dusty miller and coreopsis.

Spring is an especially busy time for Fr. Bezuszka at the garden, as he weeds, trims, waters and makes other preparations to make it look pleasant for the Commencement weekend crowds. While the site never fails to draw favorable comments, and more than a few camera lenses, Fr. Bezuszka jokes that it would be even better if the University were to postpone graduation until the first week of June because "that's when the garden is at its peak."

Fr. Bezuszka credits his sister Josephine Kokoska, who comes about once every week to help, as the "brains behind the whole layout" of the garden. She donated the statue of Mary for the garden's corner, said Fr. Bezuszka, which is especially striking when illuminated by the early morning sun. Fr. Bezuszka often finds flowers behind the statue, most likely contributed by people who have prayed at the site, he said.

Many people stop and talk to him on their way to work or class as he tends to the plants, and he said he is pleased that the garden gives people a lift as they walk by.

"I want everyone to derive pleasure from it, especially on bleak days," he said.

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