Elizabeth Abbott Wheat: Landscape Architect, mother, daughter, sibling, wife, mentor
Elizabeth 'Liba' Wheat was born in Tucson. She and her parents lived in a Polo Village Quonset hut adjacent to the University of Arizona campus for the first six months of her life before moving to Phoenix. The eldest of five, Liba got her nickname from a younger sibling who could not pronounce Elizabeth. She graduated high school as a National Merit finalist.
Liba followed three generations of Wheats into Arizona's green industry. Her great-grandfather moved to Phoenix from the midwest and started Wheat's Riverside Nursery in 1906. Great-grandmother, Lucy Wheeler Wheat carried on the business for 25 years after her husband's death, handing it down to Grandfather DeWitt Wheat, a legendary plant propagator in the Phoenix area. Liba's father Jim received a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Arizona and returned to Phoenix to join his father's business. Jim opened Jim Wheat's Landscape Center in the late 1960s. He was among the first landscape architects to receive professional registration in Arizona.
Liba received a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Arizona in the 1970s. She returned to Phoenix to work as a designer in her father's firm. Restless to try something new, Liba sought her fortune in Tucson and shortly after getting married started Wheat & Associates, a landscape architecture firm in 1982. Wheat & Associates became Wheat Gallaher Associates in the early 1990s and then Wheat Scharf Associates in the late 1990s.
Liba's rich and varied professional career, evidenced by an extensive list of significant works throughout the City, County, and Southwest have produced lasting impacts on the community, academic programs, regulatory policy, the urban form, arid land issues and the profession. She has been influential in transforming public spaces: roads, streetscapes, parks, plazas and the University of Arizona campus. Liba maintains a philosophy that emphasizes collaborative approaches to meeting client needs in ways that conserve resources, foster livable communities and build public support for the project.
Among many projects of which she is proud, the Interstate 10-Interstate 19 Traffic Interchange and Women's Plaza of Honor are but two examples. The firm designed the graphics on the retaining walls and piers as well as the landscape for the Interchange. Liba was one of the team of Landscape Architects that designed Women's Plaza; the sketch plan in the background of the banner at the site was drawn by her.
Liba was the first woman to serve as the Landscape Architect member on the Arizona Board of Technical Registration, as well as the first female Chair of the Board. She was honored as Alumna of the Year twice by the University of Arizona, School of Renewable Resources (the original home of Landscape Architecture at the University). Locally, Liba served on numerous advisory committees, task forces and commissions.
Liba and husband Eric Scharf have two children, Henry and David.