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Allens help Botanical Garden Thrive

Allens help Botanical Garden Thrive

James and Delight Allen “went steady” in Tucson, Ariz., as teenagers, then had no contact for 50 years. They have been married for the last 10 years and live in Chapel Hill, thanks to a single phone call a decade ago. They live near the North Carolina Botanical Garden on Greenwood Road, which also borders the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s Battle Park nature trails.

And that makes them both perfectly happy, because nurturing and enjoying growing things have been significant parts of their lives since they were kids. “We always had a garden growing up, and to have such a beautiful and serene place to enjoy and take a stroll with our dogs makes this the perfect place to live,” they said.

They have also become involved as well–pulling weeds alongside the Garden’s nearly 250 volunteers, walking the trails and witnessing the Garden’s evolution as a conservatory for native plants of North Carolina and the Southeast U.S. and as an educational center. And now, the Garden will benefit from their legacy: The Allens have chosen to document a planned gift in their estate that will establish an endowment providing ongoing income for Garden operations. In honor of their generosity, the education center on the grounds has been named the James and Delight Allen Education Center. What’s more, at the naming ceremony on campus in April, the Allens were awarded membership in the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award conferred by the governor, for their dedication and service to the state of North Carolina.

“Jimmy and I are pleased to have our names associated with the Garden, and it is very satisfying to be able to help in this way,” Delight said. “The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a special place and an important part of the University.” The Allens’ support will help further the Garden’s mission to inspire understanding, appreciation and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas, and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature. “Jim’s and Delight’s gift will be transformative and provide a significant funding source for the Garden in the future,” said Garden Director Dr. Peter S. White. “We are extremely grateful for their vision and generosity.”

The 30,000 square-foot James and Delight Allen Education Center is recognized as an environmentally conscious space, having received the highest LEED rating from the American Green Building Council. It offers healthy, energy-efficient offices and classrooms and also incorporates a wide range of green and sustainable technologies. The $12 million structure was funded entirely by private contributions. The Allen Education Center opened in fall 2009, and has since seen significant growth in gardens, programs, exhibits and educational offerings.

Dr. Allen has been enjoying the gardens and other natural areas since 1968 when he moved back to his native North Carolina.

Having grown up in Beaufort, N.C., Jim has spent most of his career as a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and as a senior research associate at the Carolina Population Center. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona (Tucson) and masters and doctoral degrees from Boston University as well as a master of science in public health from UNC. His hobbies have included real estate development and, since 1999, he has been president of, an online course provider focused on assisted living and nursing home administration.

A native of Wisconsin, Delight lived in California for 40 years where she was an educator and where she also built and still manages a successful real estate portfolio. An accomplished cellist who attended the University of Arizona on a music scholarship, she earned degrees in music education and history in 1956. She has played cello in the Tucson Symphony, the Santa Maria Symphony and in several string quartets. Her love of music also inspires the couple to support the Carolina Performing Arts and the North Carolina Symphony. Their affinity for four-legged companions motivates them to support numerous humane societies as well.

But they have adopted the North Carolina Botanical Garden and its staff as their first commitment. “The Botanical Garden staff is very dedicated and provides a great service to our state and community,” they said. “We want to be sure they have the resources they need to continue their good work.”

Support for the North Carolina Botanical Garden also comes from The Botanical Garden Foundation, Inc., which also protects and manages several nature preserves. The Allens’ support further bolsters its efforts. “–No organization does more to understand and protect the tapestry of life found in this magnificent state than the North Carolina Botanical Garden,” said Tom Earnhardt, president of the Botanical Garden Foundation. “The generous commitment by Jim and Delight Allen will allow the Botanical Garden to do so much more in the future.”

The Allens just want to keep the Garden green and growing. “There is such beauty everywhere; conserving our natural resources and sustaining them for the future is really important to us.”


The Office of Gift Planning assists donors seeking to make current or future gifts to Carolina in the most advantageous manner. Our team regularly partners with professional advisors (attorneys, financial planners, tax advisors, insurance professionals, trust officers, Certified Public Accountants, etc.) to assist donors with financial, tax, retirement and estate planning knowledge to achieve your objectives and create a Carolina Legacy.

For more information, please contact the Office of Gift Planning by phone at 1-800-994-8803 or email our office at [email protected]. To learn more about creating your own Carolina Legacy, visit