Marywood became an arboretum by its own declaration in 1975 as "The Sister Maria Laurence Maher Arboretum" in honor of one of Marywood's most avid environmental supporters, Sister Maria Laurence Maher, IHM, then Professor of Biological Sciences. At the time, there was a symbolic planting "to recognize the value of the woods of Marywood, both as a study area and aesthetically."

Pennsylvania Magazine has recognized Marywood's campus as "Most Beautiful Religiously-Affiliated Campus in Pennsylvania." Tireless efforts to cultivate "official" arboretum status were maintained by the father/son team of John and Mark Burns, who respectively served until 2004, when Mark became Superintendent of Grounds.

In 1996, the Science Department, with the assistance of John and Mark Burns, submitted a proposal aimed at capturing official, national recognition of the campus grounds as an arboretum. Marywood University was officially named as an arboretum in 1997, and is a current member of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA).

Since initially announcing Marywood University's official arboretum status, outside support has been received to fund this endeavor including numerous grants from the Overlook Estate Foundation.

The Arboretum at Marywood University spans the university's scenic 115-acre campus.