JARS v52n1 - From the President

From the President
H.C. "Bud" Gehnrich
Huntington, New York

As I sit here on November 12 looking out over the garden that is fast being buried in leaves, I can think back over the past month or so and the two meetings that marked the close of the rhododendron year, the Western and the Northeast Regional meetings.

While I could not attend the meeting in San Jose, I know that both the Western and the Eastern Vice President were there as was the Executive Director, so the Society leadership was well represented and able to speak with the members and exchange views. From all I hear, the meeting was successful and certainly the program was well thought out.

The Northeast Regional opened shortly after the Western, and again a well thought out, interesting program with good speakers kept everyone busy. The members are fortunate that the chapters and in some cases districts are willing to take on the job of sponsoring these conferences. Of course they do get a chance to put their best foot forward and of course they do make some money for their group (and for the Society and various rhododendron funds) but a conference still takes a lot of work on the part of the organizers. Our thanks to them.

The meeting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, hosted the ARS Board of Directors meeting, and while this is not the most exciting thing happening at a conference, this one had some items that are of great interest to the membership. One of the more controversial subjects that we have had recently is that of the possible change in the name of the organization. It certainly drew more mail and comment from the membership than any item I can recall.

Since this is a bylaws change, a second vote was required at the Allentown meeting. The motion was made, but it was not seconded. Under the rules of procedure, no second meant that the motion died, and so that name change did not even get debated.

Because there had been much opposition to the proposed name from our membership, it was quite evident that the board members were paying attention to the membership and respecting their wishes. The members of the Azalea Society of America were also concerned about the change, feeling that it was an infringement on their organization.

At the same time, board members felt that further consideration should be given to the possibility of a change. After all, the number of members living outside the US is about 25 percent of our total membership and growing at a faster pace than the US membership. This does raise some questions about the way we are organized, how we operate and what we call ourselves. Everyone should know that the impetus for the change came not from overseas members but from US leadership who sees this change in membership and is concerned that the name should be a reflection of the organization.

It was agreed that the question needs further consideration, and so a committee was established to look further into the question, to analyze the impact on the Society both in the US and throughout the world, and to report back to the board. Part of their responsibility is to open a dialog among the members through letters and articles in the Journal explaining the need for change as well as the reasons for not making a change. Obviously a big challenge, but Len Miller of Grove, Oklahoma, and Director of District 11 agreed to take on the job. I know we will be hearing from him frequently.

A committee was also established to coordinate our efforts to upgrade the collection of rhododendron books, letters and papers in the Alderman Library in Virginia. These make up the important history of the ARS and the record of the work done by all those in the fields of exploring, hybridizing and growing rhododendrons. Most of us are not even aware of this important collection, and it is the board's hope that establishing the committee will bring the collection to every one's attention, thereby encouraging the deposit of these important items in the collection. I am pleased to be able to report that Sandra McDonald, Director of District 9, and chairwoman of the Editorial Committee, has agreed to take on this post as well.

There was an article in the fall Journal announcing a challenge gift offer of $400,000 toward the Rhododendron Species Foundation Endowment Fund if the Foundation can match that amount by August of 1998. The board of the ARS and I urge the members of the Society and its chapters to support this opportunity for the Foundation. The garden's collection of rhododendron species provides us with a wonderful opportunity to see the way the plants grow, gain access to the pollen for purposes of hybridizing, buy plants that are true to type and obtain seed of these plants. The garden makes a very large contribution of seed to the ARS Seed Exchange, and this species seed is in great demand and very difficult to obtain from other sources.

I don't mean to suggest that the Endowment Fund of the ARS should be put aside. It still is an important part of our long range plan. However, a challenge gift of this type, where the donor will match the contribution raised, is a unique opportunity and must be taken advantage of.