VALPARAISO - Purdue University Northwest has announced the largest donation in its history. Officials with Taltree Arboretum & Gardens in Valparaiso have agreed to donate the arboretum and its more than 300 acres of land to the university in a deal valued at approximately $12 million.

Taltree Arboretum & Gardens is an oak preserve founded by Damien and Rita Gabis that draws nearly 50,000 visitors annually. The couple, along with the board of directors for Taltree Arboretum & Gardens Foundation Inc., have partnered with the university to allow PNW to operate the property "as an arboretum for public, educational, conservation and recreational use."

"We are truly grateful to the Gabis family, as well as the Board of Directors of the Taltree Foundation, for their visionary and generous gift to advance learning, research and engagement in Northwest Indiana," said Thomas Keon, chancellor of Purdue Northwest. “We are tremendously excited about this exceptional opportunity to expand the mission and impact of both the arboretum and PNW."

The property is set to be renamed Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest, though the name change remains subject to final approval by the Purdue University Board of Trustees in February. PNW says the closing of the transfer of ownership is expected to occur in early 2018.

Damien and Rita Gabis purchased the initial plot of land in 1990 and continued to make additional land purchases over the years. Purdue Northwest says the property is home to one of the most diverse oak collections in the nation.

Purdue Northwest says taking over ownership of the property will allow the university to "offer new and expanded academic courses, enhance recruitment efforts, support community educational and outreach programs, conduct new research projects, and engage further with area K-12 teachers and students."