Humans of Parkland: Theresa Meers
Theresa Meers, originally from New Douglas, Ill., is a horticulture professor and greenhouse manager at Parkland. Meers also works with students on Parkland’s sustainable garden by the W-building.
“When I started out in college I wanted to be a veterinarian. I didn’t enjoy the animal science classes so I went into crop science classes and through that went into soils classes. I graduated with a crop sciences and a soils degree,” Meers said.
After graduating she worked doing aerial photography of farm fields. When the company wanted her to move to DeKalb, Ill. She decided to change careers instead which is what led her to the green house at the University of Illinois, where she worked for 16 years before coming to Parkland. While at the U of I, Meers obtained a master’s degree in insects in the greenhouse.
“When the green house [at Parkland] got built, they were looking for a new faculty member and I was lucky enough to get the job,” she said.
Meers has been at Parkland for 12 years full-time, and one year part-time before becoming full-time.
“One [favorite] plant, that’s hard to say. I like groups of plants,” she said. “I’m really fond of all the tropical [plants]. My favorite vacation is a warm beach I like…the stuff I can’t grow here normally.”
At Parkland, Meers has the ability to grow some tropical plants, however, like pineapple and banana plants in the greenhouse. While the banana plant has only fruited one year that was unusually warm, the pineapple plant fruits regularly and currently can be seen with a pineapple growing on it.
“We’ve had lemons, but the lemon tree got so big we [had to get] rid of it. Lemon trees have thorns…so we got rid of it and haven’t gotten a new one to replace it because after a point they get a little hard to handle,” she said.
Another group of plants she is fond of are succulents, which are plants like cacti that grow in dry climates by having thickened parts that retain water.
“I am fond of all the succulents just cause they’re so easy to grow, indoors and outdoors. There’s a lot more succulent type plants that you can grow here that people don’t realize,” she said.
Meers teaches a tree identification class at Parkland which she enjoys as well, where students are taught to identify different trees that can be found in the area.
“I really love trees…It’s one of my favorite classes,” she said.
Besides plants, Meers enjoys reading historical fiction, playing around with technology and traveling. She enjoys reading historical fiction because it’s a relief from reading textbooks all the time. Her favorite author is Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the Outlander series.
“If [historical fiction] is done well, you learn a little bit about the history, because they use real history, and it’s just not as dry as reading a history book,” she said. “So you have that story aspect that’s woven in to the historical piece that’s happening, and that’s what I like. I like that it’s not like a textbook; it’s more enjoyable.”
She also enjoys figuring out how things work and learning about new technologies on the computer, phone, and television. She also does hands on work around the house fixing things.
“I like to tinker and make things work and see how they work,” she said. “I’m a little bit of a hands on person…if something’s broken I tend to try to fix it.”
She enjoys traveling, often to go see family.
“I like to see new things. I like to explore. [I’ve] been to Europe several times, been to the Caribbean many times, been to California a couple times and points in between…My all-time favorite, and I’ve only been there once, was Barbados…I just love the islands…the people were just so open, so friendly.”
Another reason Meers loved Barbados was because of a nostalgic moment she and her husband had.
“We got in a taxi, and their taxis aren’t like our taxis they’re just random cars and it was a ‘57 Chevelle…it was the same car my husband had had as his first car so it was kind of fun…[we] felt like we were going back in time.”
One thing that is important to her is spending time with family. She says that she loves being with her many nieces and nephews. She also has four siblings, and takes care of her mother in law.
Meers sees her students as family in a way as well.
“My students are my kids,” she said.