QBARS - v29n3 President's Address

President's Address
Alfred S. Martin

The national organization of the American Rhododendron Society has made commendable progress since my report to you last year. Progress, unfortunately, is subject to an infinite number of definitions. What is progress to one is regression to another. Each person's definition of progress is not too subtly warped and bent to his own skills, training and inclinations. We are defining progress tonight as improved skills in communication, strengthened administrative and managerial organization, achievement of objectives and heightened sensitivity to the needs, ideas, and desires of individual members of the Society.
Our foremost objective for improvement was in the field of individual, group and chapter communications. We are pleased with the many indications of progress in this field. We have faithfully tried to keep all chapters and elected directors fully informed of national activities by timely reports on all matters of consequence.
Individual members have been reached through the medium of presidential reports in each of the Quarterly Bulletins. General response has been excellent with candid individual and chapter reactions to these matters. Almost twelve years ago when I first started working with Eastern Chapters under the leadership of Edward Dunn, it was sometimes necessary to write at least two or three letters to get any appreciable chapter or individual response. Within two years we could count on a reply from almost all chapters on any question raised. The quality of communication has improved continuously throughout this entire time.
Happily when these principles were applied on a national scale, the objectives were achieved considerably more instantaneously. We are now almost certain to have a total and thoughtful reply from all Chapters on any significant matter. This input has been of immeasurable assistance in attempting to formulate both short and long term objectives.
One particularly important indication of individual concern can be found in the balloting for directors. Almost thirty percent of the membership recently participated and for the first time in my memory, all directors elected received in excess of 500 votes. This year also showed a true indication of the individual worth of each ballot. The voting was so close that the last dozen or so ballots received changed the relative individual standings of half the candidates.
Committee work over the past year has continued to be extremely effective. Through the cooperation of individual chairmen, we have been able to establish files of written reports for each committee which now can be turned over to the next administration and hopefully carried forward making it totally unnecessary for incoming committees to cover redundant matters. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.
The Annual Meetings Committee is a very pertinent case in point attesting to the effectiveness of our committees. Under the leadership of John Evans, M.D., of the California Chapter and Dennis Stewart of the New York Chapter, annual meetings are now scheduled through 1980. We could have gone beyond this date with apparent ease, but the Board felt that we should not extend ourselves beyond a five-year period of commitment. Meetings are scheduled in 1976 for Philadelphia; in 1977 for Eugene; New York in 1978; Vancouver in 1979. The 1980 meeting will be held under the leadership of the Massachusetts Chapter in conjunction with the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Massachusetts.
One great accomplishment of the past year was the recent publication of the 25 Year Index prepared by a committee under the very durable and capable leadership of Mrs. Hugh Baird, and painstakingly checked by our editor, Molly Grothaus. Copies of this most dedicated work are now available for sale and I trust that the membership will view it in the same important light that we do.
Now we need to go one step further to enhance the timeliness and value of this publication by making available reproductions of articles at a nominal cost when requested. It does little good to have an Index without access. Unfortunately, this will take a little doing not only because of the time involved but also because the Society itself does not have a complete file of the Quarterly suitable for this purpose. We highly commend the completion of this project to those who will be taking our place.
This year we also published a new membership roster in accordance with our promise last year. This membership list took a new format from the last issue in that it was completely alphabetical and not by chapter. As you might well imagine, reaction to the format was varied, but generally speaking, more favorable than unfavorable especially from those using the list more frequently.
Working intensively over the past two months, we have been able to publish a revised and up-dated version of Policies of the Board. These had not been compiled since 1970. It is quite apparent that many of these policies need revision or elimination and we hope that this can be done on an annual basis by addenda with a completely new version published not less than once every three years. Copies of this document have been furnished to each chapter president, officer, and elected director.
Any individual member should be able to have access to this policy statement through his own chapter organization if the member's interest is so inclined. Much of the work on this difficult document was done through the individual effort of Mr. George Smith of the Indianapolis Chapter. Revision would not have been possible without the compendium of the minutes done by Dr. Robert Ticknor. The final document was reviewed and checked twice before final presentation to the Board for approval. One major problem was to convince individual Board members that the end result was an up-date of Board policies currently in effect and not a revision or a proposal of desirable policies.
Taxes received quite a bit of attention during the year and largely through the generous efforts of James Quigley, tax partner of Arthur Young and Company's Philadelphia office, our group exemption under paragraph 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 as amended, has been finalized and our first report accepted by the Bureau. What had seemed from the beginning like a very simple thing turned out to be enormously complicated and time-consuming. Both participating and non-participating chapters have been kept completely and fully informed. Eleven chapters of the Society have for various reasons, decided up to this point not to be part of this group exemption. We believe they should review their position. As far as Mr. Quigley was able to determine, the American Rhododendron Society is the only chapter-oriented horticultural organization to qualify for a group exemption under the 501 (c) (3) provisions. By means of the President's Report in the October 1974 Quarterly, we were also able to inform individual members as to the tax deductibility of expenses incurred in connection with official duties performed for the American Rhododendron Society. No one has been bold enough yet to give a final opinion as to whether or not individual dues are tax-deductible. Certainly any contributions to the Society over and beyond the normal dues structure would be tax-deductible. This would apply either to individual chapters or the national organization.
The July issue of the Quarterly will be the last one published by the Benedictine Press. Normally this would have been a tremendous blow to the Society. We are very fortunate in having such an able and devoted editor and I am extremely happy to report that through the technical skill and formidable energy of Molly Grothaus, new sources of publication have been found which will not significantly increase the cost of publishing the Quarterly and will have some benefits not available through the Benedictine Press. We believe that the quality of the Quarterly grows with each issue and such continued improvement will set difficult standards for any Horticultural Publication to match.
The funds of the Society have been invested over the past year for the first time in such a way as to maximize the income from available funds. Ted Van Veen, the current treasurer, and Dr. August Kerr, the incoming president, will continue to monitor this situation closely both as to security and maximum return. Hopefully, the next treasurer's report will give an indication of the precise benefit to the Society through this additional effort.
The Research Committee under the general direction of Dr. Kehr has continued to be very effective. A great number of desirable alternatives for the expenditure of funds authorized at the May meeting of the Board last year has been presented to the Board
for consideration. Funding for 12 of these projects will begin in the very near future and the results will be available to the membership during the coming year. The Research Committee with the cooperation of Mr. Judson Brooks of the Great Lakes Chapter, has proposed the approval of a trust document creating a Research Foundation for the American Rhododendron Society. This was approved by the Board of Directors this morning and the problem of raising funds to implement this decision will shortly begin. The document itself will probably be published in an early issue of the Quarterly. This Foundation cannot succeed without extremely broad-based support from individual members of the Society. If this cannot be attained, it would seem that the project should be abandoned at an early date and not allowed to have a lingering death. Dr. Kehr will keep you informed on this project at regular intervals.
The Honors Committee under Ted Van Veen continued to give strong direction during the past year. Hopefully this trend will be continued and allow us to make the award of The Gold Medal a function of national concern rather than being a chapter or regional responsibility. Individual chapters are urged to make use of the Bronze Medal where merited, and regional groups should certainly be active in recommending the Silver Medal which has been too infrequently used.
The Awards Committee chaired by Dr. Ned Brockenbrough of Seattle, assisted by Dorothy Schlaikjer of the New York Chapter, has also continued to be very active and I am encouraged to note the growing awareness of the importance of the awards function in many individual Chapters.
George Clarke's Ratings Committee completed an enormous amount of work during the past year and hopefully this will soon bear fruition with the publication of a new Society book on American Hybrids that has been long awaited.
I am delighted to report that Esther Berry has agreed to continue her work with the Seed Committee for at least another year. This is a very fortunate thing for the Society. The results this year financially were comparable to last year and approximately $1,125 was turned over to the Society to be added to the Research Fund. Esther feels, and I concur, that the growing number of chapter seed exchanges may eventually have a very detrimental effect on the national program and we may some day in the not too distant future be faced with the decision as to whether or not the national program should be continued. Hopefully, some persuasive accommodation will be reached before that time.
The Society continues to owe a great deal to Ed Parker, our registrar. This is a rather thankless task that he continued to perform most effectively. Howard Short continued to build the Slide Library and I am delighted to note that Fred Galle hopes to have an azalea program ready before too long and no more outstanding authority in the field could possibly be found. The New York Chapter has also indicated that they hope to have some programs ready in the not too distant future based upon the Long Island area and the Planting Fields Arboretum.
During the past year, the functions of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee were basically merged, in order to recommend to the Board a sound financial base for the immediate objectives and needs of the American Rhododendron Society. This group was immeasurably helped by the Research 100 project which was completed early in the year. The objective significance of the results were brought to us by an article in the October 1974 Quarterly by director Henry Schannen who was largely responsible for the project.
Members of the group have been briefed by Henry regarding the subjective portion of the questionnaire and its future significance to the Society. As mentioned before, this is a very vital document to assist in guiding us over the next few years.
We are all happy to report that there was no significant decrease in membership because of the new dues structure. We must now respond in kind by continuing to make our organization more valuable to each individual member of the Society.
There is one thing that remains undone and I pledge myself to finish this, with the permission of the incoming president, since it will carry over into his term. Now that Policies of the Board have been completed, we want to place in the hands of each chapter president, elected director, and officer, a loose leaf notebook which will contain sections on Policies of the Board, Board minutes, and correspondence with the national organization. Two other sections will contain tax documents pertinent to the group exemption and a copy of the by-laws which will hopefully make it unnecessary to keep referring to the January, 1970 issue of the Quarterly. This can not be done overnight but work will begin on it immediately after this meeting.
Directors elected for the current year are: Sydney Burns, New York Chapter; L. Keith Wade, Vancouver Chapter; Dr. Franklin West, Philadelphia Chapter and Dr. Ernest Yelton, Southeastern Chapter.
This morning, the Board of Directors elected Ed Egan to the Board for a one year term replacing Ted Van Veen who has become Secretary-Treasurer of the Society and Arthur Dome to complete the term of Ned Brockenbrough. Nominated and elected officers for the next two years are Dr. August Kehr, President; Fred Galle, Eastern Vice President; Ned Brockenbrough, M.D., Western Vice President.
After spending a great many years involved in the national affairs of the Society, I cannot help but have formulated some objectives both short and long-term for the Society and these are purely my own and no way inferred to be any consensus of opinions. I believe that the most important and critical objective for the Society should be the establishment of a national office staffed by the full time executive secretary, the editor, and a clerk. This would serve to remove the present punishing burden thrust upon the non-paid officers of the Society by virtue of a lack of such a permanent office. There is currently no central repository for the files of the Society and they repose anywhere between the basement space provided by Bob Ticknor's office in Canby, Oregon, the executive secretary's and Editor's home in Portland and my office in Mountaintop, Pennsylvania with undisclosed and perhaps intermediate stops. There is no central place to which members can address inquiries and/or where outside people can direct their problems. There is also a great need to collect a library in a central location and certainly to maintain complete files of the Society's Quarterly. In short, such an office cannot help but add to the administrative efficiency of the Society and allow for more dynamic leadership to achieve its objectives. We all recognize that the establishment of such an office would be impossible using current funds even though in the long run it should more than pay its own way.
My first suggestion toward achieving this objective would be to re-establish a very active membership committee and to up-grade the current classes of membership. If we could get only 10 or 15 percent of our membership to become sustaining members, at a cost of $25.00 per year and another 5% to become sponsoring members at $50.00 per calendar year, we could basically meet the financial problem of establishing a central office. This upgrading of membership can be done and is being done by a great many horticultural organizations through the country.
The membership committee should also be active in finding effective ways to solicit new members and lowering the percentage of membership turnover each year. A greatly increased membership would lower the cost of the Quarterly and allow considerably more additional services to individual members. Increased advertising in the Quarterly could also provide increased funds as well as more services to the membership. Advertising revenues can be safely increased within the guidelines of the I. R. S. rules.
Following along the same course of increasing service to the membership, I would like to see the Society become much more active in the publications field and to more aggressively promote the sale of the Society publications. The Research 100 report specifically emphasizes that the general membership is extremely eager for almost any worthwhile type of publication dealing with rhododendrons and azaleas and we certainly have within our own organization the talent for fulfilling this need.
One of the important functions delegated to the Society under provisions of paragraph 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code is public service to the community in which the chapter is located. Many of our chapters are very strong in this area with flower shows, test and display gardens and active participation in projects with other horticultural societies. The Birmingham Chapter, for example, is an outstanding case showing what impact a relatively small chapter can have on its community. The almost completed display garden area at the Birmingham Botanical Garden as well as their spring shows play an important part in the life of the community. It is very encouraging that so many of the chapters are undertaking this type of work very effectively. While individual chapters of the Society tend to increase service to their communities our own national thinking needs clarification in terms of these objectives.
On other non-monetary issues, I would like to see a completely up-dated and revised set of By-Laws for the Society. A great deal of work needs to be done in this field not only to bring the By-Laws to full conformance with Oregon's statutes but also to reflect more accurately the current and long range goals of the Society. This would be a very difficult project but one that can really be best accomplished by a total up-date rather than a piecemeal revision.
Most of all, 1 think that we need a complete overhaul of our long and short-range planning to determine whether the old goals and objectives are applicable to current situations. We must ask ourselves what kind of Society we want to see five years from now or ten year from now and how we will support and implement these plans.
Bear with me now for a few minutes more. I would like to reminisce briefly about earlier periods for this is the privilege of age and I may never have another chance to publicly acknowledge my debt to some very wonderful people. I wonder how many of you attended the International Conference in Portland in 1961. That was my first national meeting and interestingly enough at this point I am not really sure why I came. Certainly it was not because of any extensive rhododendron garden, for I had none. Perhaps it was the lure of the old Multnomah Hotel which had always been a favorite. As a matter of fact in Portland for the first time I met John Schamanek and Jim Beury from the Philadelphia chapter who became lifelong friends.
This also was my first contact with the gentle and saintly Joe Gable. From the same meeting came Ted and Ruth Hansen and the Jane R. Martin Memorial Entrance Garden, Hjlmer Larson, Lester Brandt, Halfdan Lem, Ben Lancaster and Cecil Smith. Who could forget the kindness of Jock Brydon that ripened to a privileged and treasured friendship. For a good many years my frequent pilgrimages to the West Coast included visits to these people. Most of all I found myself always impatient to return to Cecil Smith's garden. No matter how many times you returned, there was always something new and wonderful to be found and actually it took me some years before I realized the extent and full beauty of his wild flower collections.
Rudolph Henny was one of the few natural gentlemen that I have met throughout life and it gives me great pleasure to remember the way in which our too infrequent visits enriched my soul, for he was a very peaceful man.
The most unforgettable person in my life would have to be Halfdan Lem. From the very first day our relationship was one of complete empathy in which he did most of the giving and I did the receiving. How many delightful happy hours were spent listening to his tales of Norway and the wonders of hunting and fishing in early Alaska. Halfdan was one of the few people I know whose stories were all in three dimension color. Nothing was ever lost in the repeating. When he described the stately course and magnificence of the Kaiser's yacht steaming down the fjords, it was better than viewing through a stereoscope. Halfdan's voluminous correspondence was something to be treasured and reread, encompassing as it did the natural wonders of the world and the reason for their existence. Even now should I be awake in the stillness of
the night it is easy to close my eyes and visualize Halfdan accompanying his beloved Norse Gods through the sky.
During that same period, through other horticultural interests I came to know, admire and respect Dr. Henry Skinner of the United States Arboretum and Fred Galle who was beginning his distinguished career at Callaway Gardens. With their enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge they imbued me with a tremendous interest in native and hybrid deciduous azaleas. Tony Shammarello became an early and extremely close friend and associate. Who could help but not owe a debt to the generous sharing of knowledge by John and Gertrude Wister. John's pithy comments and incisive wit are a joy beyond compare.
The next few years brought me great riches through contacts with Tom Wheeldon, Bob Comerford, Harold Clarke, Bob Ticknor, Carl Phetteplace and Sydney Burns. It was always a great joy and privilege for me to visit with Will and Christel Curtis and later Linda and enjoy their bountiful hospitality. These years also saw the beginning of a very close and treasured association with Edward Dunn whom I feel privileged to claim among my very close friends and who, at least in the eyes of many Eastern Chapters, through individual effort held the Society together at a very critical time.
The Callaway Gardens meeting in 1969 was truly vintage for these brought closer association with Ben Nelson, Warren Berg, Ted Van Veen and two completely irrepressible, irreplaceable and wonderful people, Marge Baird and Esther Berry who by themselves are almost a complete reason for laboring in the vineyards of the Society. Then, too, there was Harry Nash who has done so much for the National group in such a quiet and efficient way. A little later others like Curt Huey, Frank West and Jack Evans, Gustav Mehlquist all added their own special magic to the fullness of my life. All this says that for me at least, over the years it has been impossible and not even desirable to separate people and the Society for truly one composes the other.
Now as I look about, I consider myself fortunate to be associated with so many of the younger people who will be available to guide the Society in the immediate future years. The Society has meant much to me if for no other reason than the many friends I have made. Basically, friends are important because if one has a sense of one's own value and worth, they become an irreplaceable extension of one's own being. The mutuality of such a relationship becomes one of the truly great and satisfying experiences in life.
I leave active participation in the Society not with any regret but with thanks for what it has meant to me in these terms and a sense of pride in having been able to participate with you in unifying and strengthening the Society as a whole and in seeing it now poised at a benchmark position with the undoubted ability to become a great and forceful organization in terms of commitments to itself and its members.