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Office of the President

Welcome

Feb. 2024 - Realizing a Dream Fulfilled

President Karen Lawrence
President Karen Lawrence

For more than 20 years, the issue of providing housing for The Huntington’s research fellows has been an ongoing topic of conversation: While we have been able to offer scholars prestigious long- and short-term fellowships, we have not been able to offer them places to stay. And that, it turns out, has kept some of them from accepting fellowships.

As rental costs continue to soar in the Los Angeles area, prospective fellows—especially junior faculty and those with fewer resources—often find themselves carefully considering the high costs of renting a place here, while simultaneously paying rent or a mortgage at home, before saying yes.

Enter philanthropist and longtime Huntington supporter Charlie Munger, who last fall provided a gift of $40 million to fund the building of the Scholars Grove, a residential community with nearly three dozen residences along the northern border of the Huntington property. The transformative gift will, in two years, provide temporary housing for visiting fellows at affordable rental rates.

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The Huntington’s Magnolia pacifica tarahumara is the only mature specimen we know of in North America.

Since receiving the gift, Huntington staff has been working with a team of architects and engineers to study the 3-acre site and imagine what could be. One central consideration? The trees in that area. Our Botanical staff has been carefully investigating the best strategies to protect them and, importantly, how to integrate them properly into the site. One of those trees is a magnificent Magnolia pacifica tarahumara that is the only mature specimen we know of in North America (the plant is native to Mexico). Another particularly important tree is our dazzling cassia excelsa, a species native to Central and South America that’s proven nearly impossible to propagate—and our phenomenally talented staff has tried. Nearby are several historic oaks, including a rare Engelmann, one of my favorite trees—pictured here in The Real Dirt, a publication of the Garden Club of America. And just to the south of the site is our research grove of avocado, including one of our historic specimens that was planted during Henry E. Huntington’s time. In all, there are 150 trees that the project design and implementation will carefully accommodate. One might then wonder if this is the right site. In fact, The Huntington is home to many thousands of specimen trees, so we must always consider the trees’ well-being since every project is in close proximity to them. The Chinese Garden is a case in point: Each oak was well protected and cared for before, during, and after construction. Moreover, in addition to being an important feature in all our construction projects, our trees are critically important landscape elements, serving as habitats in their own right and providing much-needed shade, an essential cooling element.

In many ways, this is a story about sustainability. It is about the safekeeping of our trees during a construction project and ensuring that our Botanical staff has proper access for managing and studying the collection. But it’s also about the importance of sustaining a community. When a scholar is awarded a fellowship, they join a cohort of fellows that regularly come together as a group, listening and responding to one another’s projects, providing advice, and otherwise hatching and nurturing new friendships. Former fellows often talk about how their research projects changed dramatically because of comments and questions they received from other fellows, including those outside of their fields, and acknowledge the fruits of these conversations in their publications. And while The Huntington has always been a place for researchers to gather, our new Scholars Grove dramatically enhances the opportunities for friendships and productive exchanges. The social center of the project—the Wendy Munger Commons building—will include a communal kitchen, community room, media room, and meeting space for fellows and their families to come together. (Wendy is Charlie Munger’s daughter and a Huntington Trustee emerita.)

Once completed, in about two years’ time, Scholars Grove—long a dream deferred—marks the achievement of a significant goal in our five-year strategic plan. It’s an absolutely thrilling moment for our research program, humanities scholarship, and The Huntington more generally.

Karen R. Lawrence, President


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guest speakers on stage

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Billie Tsien and Erin Chase

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Karen R. Lawrence and Billie Tsien in conversation on a stage.

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Huntington president Karen R. Lawrence in front of Octavia E. Butler image

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The Huntington Senior Staff

President Karen Lawrence (center) with The Huntington's senior leadership team. (L-R): Susan Turner-Lowe, Heather Hart, Janet Alberti, Sandra Brooke Gordon, Randy Shulman, Nicole Cavender, Elee Wood, Thomas Polansky, Christina Nielsen, Misty Bennett, Susan Juster.

President Karen Lawrence (far right) with participants in Octavia Butler’s Parables: A Music Talk with Toshi Reagon. (L-R): Sophie Kim, Phil Allen, Shelley De Leon, Juliette Jones, Toshi Reagon, Claudia L. Peña, Melodie Yashar, and Tamisha A. Tyler.

President Karen Lawrence (far right) with participants in Octavia Butler's Parables: A Music Talk with Toshi Reagon. (L-R): Sophie Kim, Phil Allen, Shelley De Leon, Juliette Jones, Toshi Reagon, Claudia L. Peña, Melodie Yashar, and Tamisha A. Tyler.

Huntington staff celebrating The Huntington’s Centennial in August 2019

Huntington staff celebrating The Huntington's Centennial in August 2019.

A group of people in business attire stand near plants under a glass dome.

The Huntington's Board of Trustees: (L-R) Gregory A. Pieschala (Chair), Mei-Lee Ney, Simon K.C. Li, Scott Jordan, Christine W. Bender, Mario Molina, M.D., and Allen E. Shay. | The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about the importance of libraries and archives.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about the importance of libraries and archives.

The Huntington's 2020 Rose Parade® Float on the theme of "Cultivating Curiosity," winner of the Golden State Award

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President Karen Lawrence and Dr. Peter Lawrence with Chinese Cultural Consul Wang and Consul Gu and performers at The Huntington's 2019 Chinese New Year Festival

President Karen Lawrence and Dr. Peter Lawrence with Chinese Cultural Consul Wang and Consul Gu and performers at The Huntington's 2019 Chinese New Year Festival.

	Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Huntington Governor Robert C. Davidson Jr. with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about why museums and collecting institutions matter.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Huntington Governor Robert C. Davidson Jr. with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about why museums and collecting institutions matter.

Architect Billie Tsien with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about architecture and community

​​​​​Architect Billie Tsien with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about architecture and community.

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