In Memory of Bill Costello

Bill Costello

President Valerie Smith shared the following in a community message earlier today:

Dear Friends,

Our community lost a tireless, compassionate, and devoted member when William “Bill” Costello Jr., a gardener and the coordinator of integrated pest management (IPM) for the Scott Arboretum and the Grounds Department, died of cancer on Sat., Oct. 1, 2016. He was 59 years old.

Colleagues remember Bill as a giving and caring man who was always eager to lend a hand. 

"Bill epitomized a sense of camaraderie with and commitment to his colleagues and to the green world that inspired us all,” says Claire Sawyers, director of the Scott Arboretum. “It’s people like him whose mentorship, character, and horticultural excellence make this such a unique and engaging place, and he will be missed dearly.”

Bill joined the Grounds Department in July 2002. Two years later he was promoted to the new position of Gardener III/IPM coordinator. In this role, he served as assistant crew leader and led the integrated pest management program, which greatly decreased the use of pesticides on College grounds and the Arboretum. 

“He was a great listener and a great doer, always so patient and willing to help everybody—in fact, he spent a lot of his life outside of work helping other people. Bill put up with me for 35 years. He was a special person and I was blessed to have him in my life, that's for sure,” says Gardener Dale Nemec, who joined the Grounds Department from Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.

Bill’s title only began to capture his wide-ranging contributions to Swarthmore. For many years, Bill cooperated in a regional research program involving the collection of growing degree-day information (a heat measurement used to predict plant development rates) to see how it correlated to the stages of insect life. This data helps those responsible for landscape maintenance and has greatly simplified the monitoring necessary to locate destructive insects.

He also enjoyed teaching horticultural techniques and integrated pest management through the Scott Arboretum and its volunteer training program.  In addition, he assisted in the College’s vehicle maintenance shop and helped coordinate winter snow removal.

"I met Bill around 1980 and he was a mentor for me who really showed me the ropes. He was very professional and would take people under his wing—everybody liked him. He was very proud of his kids, active in the Boy Scouts, and definitely the proud grandpa when his first grandchild came. Just a really sweet guy—one of the best things about him was that I can say that I'm a better person for knowing him," says Scott Arboretum Garden Supervisor Chuck Hinkle, who recruited him to Swarthmore.

Bill grew up in the Juanita Park section of Philadelphia and attended Walter Biddle Saul High School, a school for agriculture. He received an AS in forestry from Penn State University in 1977. He also received an AS in horticulture from Temple University in 1994, graduating Magna Cum Laude. At Temple, he also received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence and Growth. Before coming to Swarthmore, he held positions at Osmose Wood Preserving Company in Buffalo, N.Y., Asplundh Tree Expert Company in Willow Grove, Pa., and at Friends Hospital (with Dale Nemec and Chuck Hinkle), where he was the assistant grounds supervisor.

Although Bill had a long commute each day from his home in Easthampton, N.J., he enjoyed his work so much that he would always say that it was worth the drive. When he returned to campus after an extended absence due to his illness, he said, “Coming into work and being with everyone was the best therapy I had.”

Bill is survived by Lynn, his wife of 34 years, their children Megan and Brian and their spouses, and two grandchildren. Bill was very active in the Organization of Freemasonry (the Masons), including in the Order of the Eastern Star. His memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 30, at the Mount Holly Masonic Lodge, 15 Garden St., Mount Holly, N.J.

Sincerely,

Val