E. C. Brockenbrough, M.D.
It is particularly fitting that we are honored tonight by the presence of several of our charter members, who have seen the American Rhododendron Society grow from its small nucleus in Portland to an international organization with chapters spanning the continent and with overseas members in many lands. When the A. R. S. was organized thirty-five years ago, it was a regional society. The affairs of the Society were managed by a governing body that consisted of the officers, twelve elected directors, and the chapter presidents. During the early years this was an effective arrangement. The distances to Portland were not great; board meetings were held more frequently than they are now; there was more consistent attendance and greater continuity in discussions. However, as the A. R. S. grew, the difficulties of representing the various geographical areas at the meetings of the Board of Directors became greater. We now have forty-one chapters with approximately equal membership of both sides of the continent. To accommodate to this geographic dispersal, a system has been established that provides for alternating board meetings between the coasts. I believe that this has greatly strengthened the Society, but it has also introduced new problems.
Because of the distances involved and the time and the expense of travel, we have, in effect, created two Boards of Directors. Usually no more than two or three of the governing body of fifty nine cross the continent for a meeting. Issues discussed and settled at one Board Meeting often need to be reopened at the next meeting 3,000 miles away, sometimes with different conclusions being reached. Not only has this been a source of frustration to those of us who attend these meetings, but it has also impaired the ability of the Society to move forward as it should.
The growth of the Society has also brought with it problems of providing for the needs of the chapters and their members. Our membership, now numbering over 4,000, is more difficult to service with volunteer, or largely volunteer, help than it was in the earlier years. Our growth seems to have reached a plateau and has placed us in an impasse situation which is very difficult to overcome. More members require more administrative time, and our current overworked and underpaid Executive Secretary is becoming increasingly hard pressed to meet the most basic needs of the membership, such as keeping the membership list up to date, collecting the dues from forty-one chapters, and answering the countless letters that appear daily. On the other hand, we need to double or triple our membership to provide the financial base to do the things the Society is trying to do and to maintain a vigorous and active organization. In short, it is essential for us to resume a strong growth pattern, but it is difficult to grow without the ability to provide more services to the individual chapters and their members.
Last year, to address these and other problems, the Ad Hoc Committee on Organizational Structure was formed. As I indicated in my address at the 1978 Annual Meeting on Long Island, recommendations for change would be forthcoming. I am happy to report that under the leadership of Al Martin, and more recently Frank West, that this committee has made specific proposals to the Board of Directors. Ideas and suggestions from all segments of the Society have been collected, considered and distilled into working proposals for moving the A. R. S. ahead. These proposals will require fundamental changes in the By-Laws. The changes have been reviewed and accepted by the Board of Directors at its meeting in San Francisco last February and again at its meeting in Vancouver this week.
I will not take the time to read these proposals in their entirety but will attempt to summarize the effects of the proposed changes. Basically, the chapters would be grouped geographically for the purpose of representation. Directors, rather than being elected by the membership-at-large, would be selected by the chapters of a given region. The regions would be determined by the Board of Directors with the consent of the chapters involved. The District Director would work with his regional chapters, be familiar with their needs and would represent these chapters at the meetings of the Board of Directors. In addition, the District Directors would serve on one or more committees of the Society and would represent these committees to the Board in the absence of that committee's chairman. By reducing the number of Directors to nine, the overall expense of travel to meetings would be lowered. If we are to maintain regional representation, a method must be found for financing this travel, or we will limit the privilege of directorship to those with financial means. It is hoped that the Directors will be able to attend each meeting of the Board and that their expenses can be subsidized either by the A. R. S. or by the chapters they represent. Chapter presidents would be encouraged to attend Board meetings whenever possible and to participate ex-officio.
In addition to these proposals for reorganizing the governing body, the Board also reaffirmed its intention to employ a full-time Executive Director as soon as feasible and to establish a national headquarters office. Now some may ask, "What would an Executive Director do that is not already being done?" I would envision that the role of an Executive Director might include, among other things, promoting the Society through travel and visiting individual chapters, providing guidance and assistance with annual meetings, actively assisting on publication projects and carrying on much of the communication that is so necessary to the life of the organization, yet so difficult for those of us with other full-time jobs and professions. Time does not permit an examination of all of the possible benefits that a full-time Executive Director might provide, but the experience of other plant societies has shown that the growth in membership, which can be achieved by a well-qualified person, can more than compensate for the additional expense.
I have appointed a By-Laws Committee which is charged with converting these proposals into a set of new ByLaws to be presented to the Board of Directors in October. If approved at two successive Board meetings, these By-Laws would be published in the Bulletin and subsequently voted upon by the membership as a whole, requiring a two-thirds approval for passage. It is my sincere hope that the spirit of cooperation, open-mindedness, and reason which have marked these efforts to date, will lead to their eventual acceptance by the membership of the Society.
The nominating committee proposed a new slate of officers for the period June 1, 1979 to May 1, 1981. These nominees were unanimously approved by the Board of Directors. They are as follows: For President - Fred C. Galle, Middle Atlantic Chapter. For Western Vice-President - John P. Evans, California Chapter. For Eastern Vice-President - George W. Ring, III, Potomac Valley Chapter. In addition the nominating committee announced the election of four new directors by the membership, for a three year term beginning June 1, 1979: August Kehr, Potomac Valley Chapter; Britt Smith, Tacoma Chapter; Janet Binford, Portland Chapter; Max Resnick, Massachusetts Chapter.
The Quarterly Bulletin has continued in its tradition of excellence under our new Editor, Ed Egan. The name of the "Bulletin" may soon be changed to The Journal of the A. R. S., with the addition of a panel of prominent horticulturalists, who will be available to review and critique certain articles prior to publication. Another change under consideration would convert the format to a more modern style, allowing more flexible use of color, while keeping costs down.
The Seed Exchange has also continued to prosper under the direction of Kay Ogle. The number of listings increased by 25 per cent over last year, and the operation continued to be quite successful financially. I was especially pleased to see the photographs that were shown this morning of some of the exciting new plant introductions that have originated through the Seed Exchange. The work involved in this project has become prodigious and Kay Ogle has found it necessary to relinquish her leadership. This will be Kay's last year as Chairlady and I would ask her to stand and be recognized for an outstanding job.
The Spring issue of the Bulletin carried the announcement by Ken Gambrill of a joint translation and publication project for the modern Chinese text describing and illustrating 278 native species. This has become a cooperative effort between the A. R. S. and the R. S. F., guided by a committee representing both organizations. A high quality hard cover book is planned for distribution sometime during the coming year.
Many people in the Society have felt the need for more uniformity in judging plants and, in particular, the need for the schooling and certification of rhododendron judges. We had hoped to have a seminar on this topic which would lead into such a program, but unfortunately the scheduling was too tight to permit this. As an alternative, Don McClure has committed some of his own thoughts on the subject to paper, and these have been distributed to you at the Registration Desk. I hope that his comments will stimulate each of you to some critical thinking on the matter and that you will communicate your ideas, pro or con, to Don McClure.
And now I should like to make a few personal remarks. Serving for the past two years as president of this great organization has been a great honor and privilege for me. I wish I had the time to thank individually all those who have given so much of their time and effort in behalf of the Society, its committees, and its programs, and who have made my job so much easier. But I think you know who they are and I know they do.
Before closing, I think we should also express our appreciation to our genial hosts of the Vancouver Chapter. Those of us who are fortunate enough to visit Vancouver from time-to-time are impressed by the grand hospitality that is always extended. This meeting has certainly perpetuated this tradition. The speakers have been excellent, the tours beautifully conducted and timed, and the accommodations and meals superb. Mary Myles' prints of Hjalmar Larson's hybrids will be treasured keepsakes and will grace hundreds of homes. However, I think our Vancouver hosts have overdone their generosity by providing us with nearly their entire quota of sunshine for the season!
And so to Keith Wade, Chapter President and General Chairman Bob Rhodes, Co-Chairman, Lillian Hodgson, Registrar Anne Aikens and the many others who contributed so much to the success of this meeting, our sincere and heartfelt thanks!
Now, my last task is one which gives me great pleasure. The Society will be in good hands under the leadership of your new president. He is a prominent horticulturist, accomplished photographer and author, effective administrator, and a good friend. Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to turn the meeting over to our next president, Fred Galle!