Earlier his fall, Jeff Jabco, director of grounds and coordinator of horticulture for the Scott Arboretum, received the 2017 Hamilton Award from Rutgers Gardens, the official botanic garden of Rutgers University. The national award, named in recognition of former Rutgers professor Bruce “Doc” Hamilton, is given to an unsung hero, a quiet leader, or patient mentor in the field of horticulture.
“Few horticulturists have the respect and admiration [of] as many peers as does Jeff Jabco,” said Rutgers Gardens Advisory Board Chair Bruce Lyons at the event where Jabco was presented with the award. "He certainly embodies all the professional qualifications and passion necessary of a recipient."
Jabco has dedicated himself to both horticulture and education throughout his career. He joined the Swarthmore community in 1990 and, during his time on campus, has made sure that the College’s 425-acre grounds are not only beautiful, but also a valuable educational resource for all who live, work, and visit the College. “Teaching is always something that has come naturally to me,” he says. “I do a lot of wondering about things, and try to get other people to do the wondering also.”
Jabco's love of horticulture is lifelong. Growing up, he was “always tinkering around with plants” and began working at a local landscape nursery as a teenager. Interested in the intersection of science, art, and design, his career trajectory was inspired by his family’s approach to marrying form and function in their gardening. “My parents took real pride in their home garden,” he recalls, “not just the vegetable garden but the landscape planting around it.”
As for what’s next, both the ongoing building projects and the 10-year restoration plan of Crum Woods will shape a lot of what he and his department focus on over the next decade. Throughout it all, Jabco is driven by the Arboretum’s mission to both delight and educate. “I don’t think education ever ends,” he reflects, “I think it [continues] throughout lives, we just have to let ourselves [be] open to it.”