In the midst of textbooks and laptops there is a hidden paradise. Vines dangling from a glass sky, leaves brush your side as you glide through the enclosure. This beauty seems effortless but there is a woman behind the flowers.
Cheryl Le Blanc has been running The Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse at Ball State University for 26 years. In the jungle of tropical and native greenery, Le Blanc is not lost. She knows where everything is and knows exactly what they each need to thrive.
Two kids were not the only ones she was raising. Plants can be just as much responsibility, when you have thousands of them. She applied when the position was first offered and it was clear it was going to be a full-time job.
Overwhelmed at first, she persisted and helped the greenhouse blossom into what it is today. Her kids are grown up but the plants will always need taken care of.
After almost 3 decades in the same place, boredom seems inevitable, but things are always moving and changing in the greenhouse. With the fish, turtles, frogs, roots, bark and stems time flies.
The goal of the greenhouse has always been for conservation and research, but Le Blanc wanted more.
"It was tucked away in this tiny little place and very difficult for people to access and use." she said.
"My intentional change with it has been to make it user friendly, make it much more educational, and include more things for people to learn and discover."
Le Blanc hosts programs such as weekly meditation, brown-bag lunch, Saturday programs, mini-educational programs, walk-in tours and guided tours. She wants students of any major to get involved. It doesn't matter what prior knowledge or experience they have with plants because she is there to teach.
She will continue to include new things for people to learn and discover at all different ages or stages of their interest, so there is something there for everyone.
"My favorite part of the greenhouse is sharing what's here." Le Blanc said.
She loves being a part of the greenhouse and getting to run it, but her main focus has always been the students.
"They might only come for the pretty orchids, but they might stay for the fish. They might come with no expectations what-so-ever and hopefully they leave with a better appreciation for nature." Le Blanc said.
The beauty of the The Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse isn't captured with words or photographs, although we can try. It is a kind of magic that has to be experienced, breathed in and felt.
Rinard Orchid Greenhouse
2500 W. University Ave.
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306
Hours: Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.