Greenhouse manager retiring after 41 years at WSU

Manager was part of design committee for Abelson Hall Greenhouse; oversees 95-acre environmental education property in Olympia

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ADALINE GRACE

Chuck Cody started graduate school at WSU in 1980. He received his teaching assistant certificate in 1983 teaching horticulture classes. 

ADALINE GRACE, Evergreen reporter

Chuck Cody will be retiring from his position on May 31 after working as the Abelson Hall Greenhouse manager for 38 years.

Cody is from San Antonio, Texas, where he worked in the nursery business since he was 14. He said in 1970 he was getting paid a dollar an hour for the work he did around his family’s greenhouses. 

“Legally, I wasn’t supposed to be working,” he said. “I was getting paid cash by my uncle under the table until I was 16.”

When he was 18, he started college at Texas A&M University. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in ornamental horticulture, which is the study of arranging plants for greenhouses, he said.

Cody said he started graduate school at WSU in 1980. He received his teaching assistant certificate in 1983 teaching horticulture classes. 

WSU’s Department of Botany, now known as the School of Biological Sciences, hired him to be a part of the design committee for the Abelson Hall Greenhouse in 1983. Cody said he has been a part of WSU for about 41 years.

“The scientists bring in architects, engineers and others from off-campus, and they all bring in ideas,” he said. “I was brought in as the greenhouse expert.”

The greenhouse was finished in 1985, according to the WSU School of Biological Sciences website.

Cody said at least 20 classes use the greenhouse to study different aspects of plants from the biological to the aesthetics.

In 2019, about 39 different groups visited the facility. Only one group visited the greenhouse in February last year, he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cody does not have to cater to night classes anymore, so he is able to keep the plants on a better light schedule. He said he is excited to see if the improved light schedule will cause any distinct flowering.

During his time at WSU, Cody said about 78 students have worked for him.

Cody said he cannot be a member of the committee that chooses his replacement because that would allow too much room for favoritism. He anticipates there are current greenhouse employees who will apply for his position.

“[My coworker and I] are both very encouraging of anybody who kind of wants to move up the ladder,” he said.

Aside from managing the Abelson Hall Greenhouse, Cody also oversees a 95-acre property in Olympia that was given to WSU in 1992. This property has been used to assist in environmental education for middle and elementary school students. 

After Cody retires, he plans to spend time with his wife gardening and keeping up with his other hobbies, such as pottery and woodworking. He said he can even see himself volunteering at the greenhouse in the future.