JARS v36n3 - President's Address

President's Address
George W. Ring, III, Fairfax, Virginia

I want to talk about the good guys and the good girls in the Society, the events of the past year and what to expect in the future. Where are we now in the American Rhododendron Society? As in each past year, this year the Society has grown, both in membership and organization. Thanks to the foresight and perseverance of our earlier officers and members, we now have a new set of by-laws which accommodates and encourages more regional activity in the Society. Although there may have been some who believed that the new by-laws provided the initiative for regional activity, there were many signs that the chapters and members were beginning to find ways to share information and enjoy rhododendrons together even before the new by-laws were developed and adopted. Some of these signs were:

1.  More and more members were and are becoming associates in other chapters.
2.  Joint chapter meetings in the Southeast.
3.  A "first ever" joint Western meeting.
4.  A first meeting of the California chapters.

The success of these regional meetings portends more to come, and already there are plans for at least two regional meetings during this next year.

In response to the new by-laws, the chapters have formed districts of themselves at a rate faster than new directors can be elected to replace those directors whose terms of office are completed. Already formed are 7 districts.

As events are now occurring, in just two more years all the districts will have been formed and have elected directors to represent them on the board - right on schedule.

A new award was established for Pioneering Achievement in the Improvement of Rhododendrons in America. The award can be given only once in two years. At this meeting, it was presented for the first time in honor of Joseph B. Gable.

And in the West, the city of Florence, Oregon, which has an annual rhododendron festival, in 1982 was designated to be known henceforth as "The Rhododendron City".

Ed Parker, our registrar, has been busier than ever with new plants being registered, especially new and improved azaleas. And the seed exchange has reached a new high in types of seed available (1321 seed lots) and the number of packages distributed (14,000), with more than 150 contributors, and over 800 purchasers. The growing of seedlings has increased so fast that Bill Tietjen, our seed exchange chairman, is hard put to fill orders. We can help him by pollinating a few extra flowers - and have our seeds grown by more people all around the world.

The Rhododendron and Azalea Newsletter with Janet Binford as editor is providing information to us all on local events. Its regular arrival between issues of the Journal, is becoming an important event during our rhododendron year.

The Research Foundation has had its endowment increased by 20% in the last year and has become active in approving and funding new research studies proposed by the Research Committee. Funding for six new research studies were approved by the trustees during this annual meeting.

With more new members each year, keeping their status up to date in order to be sure that each receives a Journal on time and has received credit for dues paid, has become more and more difficult, and so this year, the Board has approved the acquisition of a small computer to aid the Executive Secretary.

This year the Society's Quarterly Bulletin has become a refereed Journal with new format which, at reduced cost, has more space for articles written by members who want to share their knowledge about rhododendrons and those who grow them.

A new page in the Journal, entitled "Services to Members" has become a regular feature. From this page, a member can obtain information on how to register a rhododendron, borrow from the slide library of rhododendron shows, contribute to the seed exchange, participate in the pollen bank, propose honors for deserving members, get an article published in the Journal, and contact any of the appropriate Society committees.

A new committee, formed this year, is the Budget and Finance Committee - to help plan Society activities and establish priority needs. Mr. Ralph Shumm, the committee chairman, has already had meetings of the committee and made a number of recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board adopted a change in the annual dues from $12.00 to $15.00, with a larger proportion of this to go to each chapter to support more local activity. In spite of high inflation, this is the first dues raise in more than a decade. Another new committee, appointed this year, will help with publicity and public relations. In addition to establishing guidelines for each chapter on how to let the public know about the chapter's activities, the committee has proposed to the Postmaster General that a series of postage stamps be issued to commemorate native American rhododendrons and azaleas, and American hybrid rhododendrons. Many of the directors have enlisted the support of their congressmen for this project. You can help by writing to your congressman. Col. Wallace Marley, Chairman of the Publicity Committee, can provide you with a suggested letter.

A joint sponsorship by the Rhododendron Species Foundation and the American Rhododendron Society resulted in the publication of "Rhododendrons of China", translated by Judy Young from the Chinese language in a book on rhododendron species.

During the year the Society pamphlet on "The Fundamentals of Rhododendron and Azalea Culture" was revised and will soon be reprinted to become available to new members and others who wish to learn the basics of growing rhododendrons.

The Policies of the Board, a working guide for the Society to implement the by-laws, was brought up to date during the year to reflect the changes in the by-laws. A suggested by-laws for the chapters was prepared by the By-Laws Implementation Committee which complements the new National By-Laws. These new suggested chapter by-laws are intended for the use of new chapters, but can serve as a guide for those chapters wishing to update their existing by-laws. Many of the improvements in the Society services to members will be reflected in a notebook soon to be provided to each chapter. The notebook will contain among other items the new by-laws, how to host an annual meeting, and the policies of the board; the notebook is intended to improve communications between the chapters and national.

What can we expect during the next year? I believe the most important events will be associated with new interactions between the chapters in district activities and in regional meetings. The foundation for these activities is now well established. Later this year the chapter to which I belong, the Potomac Valley, will have its first joint meeting with the Middle Atlantic and Mason-Dixon Chapters, and we're all looking forward to making new friends and getting to know old friends better.

International? Next week there will be a Second International Meeting on Rhododendrons in Edinburgh, Scotland. People from all over the world will attend to hear papers presented on taxonomy of rhododendrons and many other subjects. More than 20 people from this country will attend, with three of them designated by the Board to represent the American Rhododendron Society at a brief first meeting of a proposed international body.

During the next year, a new committee will be established to begin work on establishing a permanent National Headquarters. This will be a long range project which can only happen sometime if we begin now.

There are now 22 active committees in the Society, with 75 committee members, who, working for, and with the members, are improving communications between us, and creating a vital, alive organization for the enjoyment of us all. We all have much for which to thank these committees. Just as important are you, the members. A society is as strong as its members, and the good things that have happened at this meeting are the result of the strong and friendly people who happily share a common interest with each other.