Dr. J. F. Rock Awarded the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society
In Address Delivered by C. I Sersanous at the presentation of the American
Rhododendron Society Gold Medal to Dr. J. F. Rock, April 23, 1954
at Seattle, Washington at the Society Meeting.
President Dunn, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the American Rhododendron Society Chapters, their guests and other guests:
I feel very humble this evening in this presentation ceremony that of presenting America's contribution to the Horticultural World a man who is probably the foremost horticultural explorer and plants man of our time.
Not only has he enriched the American Rhododendron Society, by his efforts in the securing of rhododendron material, but other single plant societies have also been enriched by his explorations in Asia.
Dr. Rock lived in Lichiang, Yunnan Province China, for many years and other than the war years-1944-45-in which he served our country as advisor and expert consultant of our Army Map Service, he devoted his entire time to expeditions into Western China, Burma and Tibet, all in the interests of Botany.
He has contributed to the literary world and under the auspices of the Harvard Yenching Institute he wrote two splendid volumes on civilization in Southwest China, the title being the Ancient Na-Khi Kingdom. As late as 1950 the Royal Horticultural Society of London, England, commissioned him to write a 600-page book with 200 plates and a map on the plant geography of Western China and East Tibet.
At the present time he is writing his life memoirs. In order that we may know more of his background and owing to its importance and the desire to properly quote, I should like with your permission to read somewhat of his biography.
"We find in the 8th Edition, American Men of Science, 1949, Page 2093, that Joseph Francis Rock was a student of botany in Vienna, Austria. He received his Doctor of Science degree in Vienna and his LLD Degree at the University of Texas. His first botanical efforts were as a Botanist in the Territory of Hawaii, U.S.A., from 1911 to 1919. At that time he was a professor of systematic botany. From 1920 to 1924 he became an agricultural explorer in the office of the seed and plant introduction bureau of plant industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture, and in 1924 and 1925 was a collaborator in that Department for the division of plant, exploration and introduction in China.
In the next ten years, J. F. Rock became an explorer and plant hunter making many trips to Western China and Tibet; heading up as Director of Expeditions of the National Geographic Society, the Arnold Arboretum Harvard Expedition, Harvard Zoological Expedition, and the University of California botanical expedition.
The following years brought international recognition to Dr. J. F. Rock, he having received the Stanislaus Julien award from the Academy of France; a member of the Botany Society, Tory, England; a honorary life membership in the National Geographic Society, U.S.A.; was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London; an honorary member of the Rhododendron Society of London; a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta; and many other high awards of recognition as a plant explorer and plantsman.
In the year of 1948, Dr. Rock directed an expedition to the Yunnan-Tibet border, this particular expedition being financed by the American Rhododendron Society, in which he gave his services free. It was a very successful endeavor resulting in some new species, and considerable other material consisting of Magnolia, Lily, Primula, and Meconopsis seed. At that time, seed from some 165 species was furnished to the American Rhododendron Society. Many of these plants have previously bloomed and many more are to bloom this year.
A splendid yellow boothii has bloomed recently in Portland and may be the answer to a good yellow hybrid rhododendron.
I could go on at length extolling the wonderful things from the seed collections of Dr. Rock, but time will not permit.
If Dr. Rock will come forward, I would like now to present the Gold Medal being awarded here this evening."
Fig. 24. Dr. J. F. Rock admiring a plant of R. lindleyi in the
University of Washington Arboretum greenhouse. Mr. B.
O. Mulligan, Director on left.
Photo Seattle Times
Be it resolved by the Board of Directors of the American Rhododendron Society the award of the highest honor of the Society to Dr. Joseph Francis Rock in grateful acknowledgement of his horticultural work as a plant explorer and achievement in the discovery of new and valuable species of the genus Rhododendron.
Your great accomplishments in Asia, made under hazardous expeditions into China and Tibet, often at the risk of life in a mountainous country having a difficult terrain; the privations and hardships encountered all make for recognition of America's foremost plant explorer.
In appreciation of our esteem, our highest regard and affection, for your lifetime efforts in your contributions to the Horticultural World and to the American Rhododendron Society, this Gold Medal is awarded to you as its highest honor.
By unanimous action of the Board of Directors.
Portland, Oregon, April, 1954