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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Luis Alfonzo

Written by: Dulce Ortiz 🇬🇹

Luis Alfonzo on Oct.25,2023 (Ian Dalrymple)

One of UMD’s overachieving staff members is Luis Alfonzo, a Horticulturist and Manager of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Landscape Services on campus. His humble, determined, and friendly personality, on top of his love for the environment, led him to experience an incredible and motivating journey.

Luis was born in Venezuela, where his passion for nature grew from his hobbies and his home’s natural landscape. En su niñez, fue parte de la Asociación de Boy Scouts de Venezuela. Después, en 1977, fue becado para tomar un curso de jardinería en el Jardín Botánico de Maracaibo (JBM).

Through his curriculum and work ethic, he was offered a job as el jefe de jardineria en el Hotel Intercontinental Maracaibo at the age of 19.

In 1980, the JBM offered him another scholarship to study a Bachelor’s in horticulture. This award was of grand significance, as it was the first of its kind in all of Venezuela and Latin America.

Esta beca, presentada por el presidente de Venezuela Luis Herrera, también fue premiada a nueve otros becados. Luis todavía se mantiene en contacto con ellos, y en muchos de sus proyectos, es agradecido por el apoyo y cariño que ellos le han dado durante los años.

Foto de los estudiantes cuando comenzaron las clases de horticultura en el JBM en 1980. (Foto cortesía de Luis Alfonzo)

With this experience, he was introduced to his now-mentor, world-renowned architect and landscapist Roberto Burle Marx, and botanist Professor George Bunting. Each has been involved in creating some of the most well-known botanical gardens in the world. Through the art of their passion, they inspired Luis to use his knowledge thus far to pursue an interest in taxonomy and botany.

En 1986, la Universidad de Zulia en Maracaibo, Venezuela le ofreció una posición para asistir en el estudio científico para la flora del estado Zulia. His work provided the opportunity to work with entomologist Pedro Barbosa from the University of Maryland. Through his connections and talents, Barbosa, as well as UMD, saw Luis’s potential and granted him a full-ride scholarship to study a Master’s in Entomology.

Durante su transición a los Estados Unidos, se involucró en una variedad de actividades. Fue pastor para su iglesia local y si convirtio en padre de cuatro hijas. Additionally, he was put in charge of a scientific investigation to continue the study and maintenance of certain plants on UMD’s campus, while keeping his academic standing. Following what he calls an overwhelming period, Luis was offered a full-time position as a horticulturist for UMD’s Landscape Services, Arboretum and Botanical Garden, where he’s been ever since.

Over the years, Luis has come to master the arts of beautiful landscape design, awarding him the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Extraordinary Public Service to the University of Greater Community Award both in 2018. He has also ranked up in positions within his department, monitors the overall nature of UMD’s campus, and has become a passionate member of Good Neighbor Day’s planning committee since 2011.

His story will continue to be shared in his latest project as a guest speaker for BMGT160, where he discusses the Intentional Self, his story, and how his decisions led him to where he is today.

Additionally, Luis is the Vice-chair of the Latinx Employee Association at UMD (LEA); una nueva asociación de staff en la universidad que se dedican a proponer más soporte para la comunidad Latina.

Whenever you see a beautiful garden design, we have Luis to thank. Through his activism and beautification efforts, he has been able to achieve so much change on campus.

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