Richard Sutton, professor of agronomy and horticulture and the program in landscape architecture, will retire June 30 after 43 years at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Sutton began his career at Nebraska in 1975 with a teaching appointment in what was then the Department of Horticulture. He was promoted to full professor in 2008 and held teaching and research appointments in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.
He and his family have been involved in teaching, research and extension in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources for nearly 100 years beginning with Sutton’s grandfather, Paul Stewart. Stewart was a faculty member in the Department of Agronomy and in extension from 1917–1938 and Philip Sutton, Richard Sutton’s father, served in extension from 1943–1978.
During Richard Sutton’s tenure, he was the primary instructor and adviser for the landscape design option within the horticulture degree program in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. He taught courses in Landscape and Environmental Appreciation, Landscape Plants I, Introduction to Landscape Design, Introduction to Landscape Contracting and Introduction to Landscape Construction.
As part of his joint appointment in the College of Architecture at Nebraska, he also taught Introduction to Landscape Ecology for Landscape Architects, Introduction to Green Infrastructure, and advised the Beta Eta chapter of the Landscape Architecture Honor Society, Sigma Lambda Alpha.
“Richard was on the faculty of the Department of Horticulture when I arrived as department head in January 1987 and I became quickly aware of his passion for students and their education,” Agronomy and Horticulture Professor Paul Read said. “He was a tireless advocate for students through course and curriculum development, always challenging current educational wisdom and working to improve student learning outcomes. His thoughtful insights and practical suggestions will be greatly missed.”
Sutton holds a bachelor’s degree in forest biology from Colorado State University, a Master of Landscape Architecture from Utah State University and a doctorate in land resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He was an original charter member of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum in 1976, a fellow of the Center for Great Plains Studies, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the managing editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Living Architecture.
His research has focused on native plants, landscape ecology, design, and sustainable green infrastructure. One of his significant projects involved green roofs, a thesis topic for his last graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in horticulture. Green roofs are comprised of vegetation and a growing substrate over a roof’s waterproofing membrane and offer a broad suite of benefits such as reduced runoff and decreased temperatures in cities.
Sutton’s green roof research examined materials and techniques to improve and enhance the establishment and use of native grasses and forbs on green roofs. Often costly and not able to survive value engineering, he showed their potential to meet industry coverage standards and reduce roof planting costs.
The American Society of Landscape Architects presented Sutton with a Research Honor Award for his “Seeding Green Roofs for Greater Biodiversity and Lower Costs” project at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO Oct. 23, 2017, in Los Angeles.
The Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture awarded Sutton the 2018 Excellence in Research and Creative Work Award, Senior Level, March 25 in Blacksburg, Virginia. This highly competitive award honors a faculty member’s outstanding, innovative and noteworthy research and creative work related to the landscape architecture discipline.
Sutton is currently at work on the book, “Reading the Nebraska Landscape.” He and his wife, Lisa Sutton, a research project coordinator in the Department of Plant Pathology, are living and gardening in Lincoln.