Faculty Spotlight: Mark Canney

Mark Canney
Mark Canney
November 10, 2020

About Mark 

I have spent most of my life in Lincoln having moved here when I was three years old from Madison, South Dakota. I attended May Morley for grade school, East Jr. & Sr. Highschool and graduated from UNL with a bachelor’s degree double majoring in English and Psychology. After a few years in the insurance business, I attended Kansas State University to work on a master's degree in Landscape Architecture. I have spent 19 years working for the Lincoln Parks & Recreation Department as a planner and have had the pleasure of working on some of Lincoln's iconic public spaces including the Sunken Gardens, the Hamann Rose Garden, the Rotary Strolling Garden and numerous other parks and playgrounds. I left that job in 2019 to pursue other interests and have found myself very fortunate to work at UNL.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I am an adjunct instructor at UNL in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. This will be my third year of teaching introduction to graphics and introduction to landscape design.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Kim Todd has been a major mentor and influence in my professional life. I have admired her contributions to the city and especially the campus of UNL. She, along with Rich and Luann Finke, were pioneers in mixing perennials and grasses into the landscape. They have also been integral to using natives in the landscape for not just the aesthetics but the sustainability and habitat they provide for almost three decades, way before it became trendy. Kim, along with the late and great Bud Dasenbrock, really transformed the campus into the notable landscapes that they are today. The campuses continue to thrive because of the groundwork they laid and the ongoing work of campus landscape architect Emily Casper and landscape services Eileen Bergt, Jeff Culbertson and staff.  

What aspect of working in an education setting do you enjoy the most?

My favorite part of working in the educational setting is the interaction with the students. I come from a legacy of teachers, including my grandmother Cora Canney and my mother Lou Canney, both teachers. However, I had no interest or plans to ever follow in their footsteps. Both were remarkable women and continue to inspire me when it comes to the classroom. Meeting students from throughout the state and even country is always fascinating and helping them work on their skills and find direction is extremely satisfying, especially as someone that has always struggled a bit with the big question, "What do you want to do in life?”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement so far would be the work I have done while at the Lincoln Parks Department. One project in particular I was lucky enough to have designed was the Hamann Rose Garden. Working on every aspect from the concept through the installation was very satisfying. It was fun and meaningful to develop a public space and create the details - pavement, design of the tiles, fountain, the benches all the way through the planting design. A highlight was working on the "Joy" Fountain which my father, to the surprise of my mother, had dedicated to her. It was a very personal project and I am grateful to Lynn Johnson, JJ Yost, Public Gardens Staff, and the Parks Foundation for the opportunity to have been involved. 

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Something that people don't know about me is that I play the guitar and piano. I was "forced” to learn the piano as a child as were my siblings, kicking and screaming the whole way. However, as an adult I have a new appreciation and love the creative outlet music allows, both in writing and composing it. There is so much great music out there and understanding the beauty of the melody and lyrics together is one of my favorite ways to relax. In some ways it is like creating a garden. Perhaps that is the overlap for me but without the pressure to satisfy anyone other than myself. 

What is your life like outside of work?

My life outside of work is busy. Pre-corona, I loved to travel. I have a sister in Oregon and a brother in Scotland. Those trips never get tiresome. Last time in Scotland my brother made arrangements to fly to Prague, which is still one of my favorite cities. I also go to California often because a good support system of friends resides there and there is always plenty to do.  Time and effort go into my mid-century modern house as the projects are never ending both interior and exterior, which includes almost a half-acre of landscape. I am also a big advocate of pet adoption and have three dachshunds that have been rescued (Cooper, Mojo, Carter) and an orange cat, known as Orange Kat, who is a neighborhood cat that actually adopted me. Photography remains a passion of mine and I spend many hours behind the lens of a camera.