JARS v55n2 - A History of the ARS Research Foundation

A History of the ARS Research Foundation
August E. Kehr
Arden, North Carolina

Alfred S. Martin
Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

The year 2001 marks the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the American Rhododendron Society's Research Foundation. It is a good time to reflect on its development and its early history.

It is said that we must look back in order to look ahead. We are writing this history in order that members of the ARS can look back at the origins of the Research Foundation and make adequate provisions for its future.

With the passage of twenty-five years there are only a few members that can recall the critical problems that faced the membership in 1975, especially the financial ones that endangered the very existence of the Society. In the President's Report published in A History of the ARS Research Foundation January 1975, Alfred Martin worried about how the Society could continue to meet its current obligations in view of its lack of funds (7). Moreover, any hope for providing a small salary for a part-time executive secretary or a stipend for an editor was entirely beyond the financial means of the Society. In fact, the main business of the Board of Directors in a very lengthy meeting was a discussion of the financial affairs of the Society. That discussion was followed by a similarly long meeting of the Budget Committee, which tried to find solutions to carrying on the business of the Society with an enfeebled treasury. The directors were much disheartened but continued to persist in finding solutions, fortunately for the ARS.

It might be pertinent at this point in this history to review the general state of the American Rhododendron Society in the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

During that period there were markedly divided camps in the Society about two policies. One group maintained that the business matters and the operations of the Society should be carried on solely by volunteers at no cost to the Society. The other group maintained that the Society would benefit by using some of its funds for salaries of the editor and the secretary. In reality, these disagreements stemmed directly from the insufficient amounts of money in the treasury. However, these diverse views almost caused open warfare within the leadership ranks.

A second, and more serious, diversity of views was a geographical one. The Society was founded in Portland in 1945, by the Portland Chapter, and for years the business meetings of the Portland Chapter were divided into two distinct parts: (1) the local chapter affairs and (2) the national society affairs. The local chapter business would be conducted and, when concluded, the local chapter meeting would be adjourned. Immediately thereafter, the national meeting would be opened, the national business would be conducted, and when finished, would likewise be adjourned. The national officers in those days were almost always members of the Portland Chapter or selected by that chapter. Under that manner of operation, it was only natural that the Portland Chapter had a different outlook on the national Society than persons elsewhere. At this critical juncture, had it not been for the strong leadership of President Edward Dunn of the Seattle Chapter, it is certain that three eastern chapters would have split away from the national Society and would have formed an independent organization.

In view of the above problems in the Society, it is not surprising that the outlook for funding of research on rhododendrons by the Society was exceedingly dismal. Despite that, President Carl Phetteplace, who followed Edward Dunn as ARS president, appointed August Kehr chairman of the Research Committee. At that time there was little or no research to report on rhododendrons from anyone, either from the ARS or from any of the Federal Research Centers or State Experiment Stations. Consequently, August E. Kehr and J. Judson Brooks proposed that the Society set up its own research capabilities. To accomplish this objective, the idea of initiating some kind of research funding organization was conceived (8). That was how and why the Research Foundation was born!

Subsequently, through the auspices of Alfred Martin, who underwrote the professional fees of James Quigley of the Arthur Young and Company of Philadelphia, a legal document and irrevocable trust to administer the Foundation was drawn up. That document was signed by J. Judson Brooks, Edward Dunn, John P. Evans, Alfred S. Martin, Theodore H. VanVeen and Franklin H. West as directors and August E. Kehr as president. The date of the signing was 13 March 1976. The purposes of the Foundation, as set forth in the document, were to promote and finance research projects relating to the cultivation, introduction, production, maintenance, improvement, propagation, protection, and dissemination of azaleas and rhododendrons.

The document also provided for income tax deductions for contributions to the capital fund under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. The legal aspects for the tax exemptions were done by George Hartnett of White and Williams law firm in Philadelphia. The trust provided for six trustees to administer the Foundation. The final signed agreement establishing the Research Foundation was prepared by George Hartnett, mentioned above. In early March 1976, the framework for the Research Foundation was put into place and we were ready to accumulate capital funds, from which only the interest would be used to accomplish the above objectives.

Thus at the time of the annual meeting of the Society at Valley Forge in 1976, everything, except the final signing, was in place to start solicitation of capital funds (6). At the annual banquet of the Society, Judson Brooks made a strong appeal for the first contributions. Pledge cards were placed at each table, and as a result the Foundation received nearly $9,549 from its initial drive. From Ted Van Veen we have learned that these contributions were received as follows:

Pledged $8,011
Cash Received $761
Convention Committee Donation $775
Total $9,547

Foundation Up and Running

Even before the Foundation was put in place, research projects had been funded from money from the Seed Exchange, such as the work of Dr. W. C. Anderson at Mount Vernon, Washington, under the title of "Tissue Culture Propagation and Rapid Multiplication of Rhododendrons" (3). This project was one of the pioneer research studies on tissue culture techniques anywhere in the world.

In addition twelve grants of $500 each were made using funds from the Seed Exchange, which at that time was under the direction of Mrs. Esther Berry (4). These grants provided for a wide range of research including nutrition, propagation, the nature of the control of flowering, regeneration of roots on bare rooted plants, protection from cold injury, propagation of deciduous azaleas, embryo culture, nature of pollen tube growth, establishment of container grown plants, and effect of herbicides on rooting and flowering.

At the outset of the fund drive, a goal of $100,000 by the year 1980 was set as a target. It was called the Research 100 Project. Later experience proved that target to have been highly optimistic. As shown in the report made by President Martin the actual capital growth was as shown in Table 1 (10).

Table 1.
Total Net
Year Donations Interest Receipts Disbursed Balance
1975 747.14 37.36 784.50 784.50
1976 10,285.65 153.25 10,438.90 10,438.90
1977 6,010.14 1,004.01 7,014.15 1,433.72 5,580.43
1978 8,085.96 1,040.41 9,126.37 9,126.37
1979 6,585.40 2,110.34 8,695.74 1,800.00 6,895.74
31,714.29 4,345.37 36,059.66 3,233.72 32,825.94

He concluded the report by pointing out that at least 75 percent of the funds came from fewer than twenty-five individual members of the Society. In brief the contributions from the great majority of the membership were very disappointing. It was abundantly clear that in 1980 that most of the members of the Society were not in a mood to support the objectives of the Foundation.

Despite the dismal outlook, the Research Committee and the Board of Directors took an optimistic course. They approved $1,300 for a project of translating a Chinese taxonomic text into English. That text described 285 species of Chinese rhododendrons. That effort resulted in the book Rhododendrons of China. The book described many species of rhododendrons that were entirely new to western literature at that time (9).

By 1982 it was certain that greater participation by the general membership was urgently needed. Fortunately, two developments apparently turned the tide and were vital in attaining the goal of increasing financial support by the membership, though that turnabout was not clear at the time.

The first of these came about when the Budget Committee made the recommendation that the profits of the Seed Exchange, which had accumulated for many years in the ARS treasury, be transferred to the coffers of the Research Foundation. The action came about when the ARS Budget

and Finance Committee made up of Richard Cavender, Maebelle McCormack, Harold Greer, and Ralph Shum, chairman, on March 10, 1982, made the following recommendation: “The Research Fund in the amount of $46,918.00 be transferred to the Research Foundation to eliminate the duplication of accounting and place all research funds together for the most appropriate administration. In this regard, the accounting for the Seed Exchange should be clearly determined.” The recommendation was accepted by the Board of Directors at their meeting in 1983. This one action, when approved by the Society, swelled the capital funds in the Foundation by over $40,000, thereby doubling the amount already in the account. It was as though that recommendation of the Budget Committee provided the magic bullet that was urgently needed to energize membership participation and interest. This transfer was the long sought turning point that assured the success of the Foundation.

A second event was far less dramatic but in retrospect had far reaching results. It was the development and use of a logo, shown at the beginning of this article, to set off all publications of the Foundation. The logo was developed and drawn by Mrs. Terry Scheuchenko at no cost to the Society or Foundation. Her only recognition was to have an evergreen azalea, 'Terry', named in her honor. However, her logo, appearing in nearly every issue of the Journal, was a powerful reminder to the membership of the research emanating from the Research Foundation. In brief, that logo spotlighted all the results of research of the Foundation and repeatedly called it to the attention of the readers.

As indication of that turnabout, please note how the research increased after 1982, as shown here:

1977 1 1982 7
1978 1 1983 7
1979 1 1984 8
1980 2 1985 10
1981 7 1986 10

These fifty-one grants totaled about $55,000, every penny from Foundation earnings (5). By 1986, the Foundation had accomplished an enviable record of research. That record, which includes all research conducted up to 1986, was summarized in detail in the Journal American Rhododendron Society in the 1987 Fall issue on pages 209-212.

The remarkable success of the ARS Research Foundation was noted both within the ARS itself and by other plant societies. For example, in 1984 President Janet Binford announced that another endowment fund was being established for the Society per se (2). This foundation is known by the name of ARS Foundation. As a result the Society now has two foundations. These foundations will go a long way toward ensuring a sound financial footing for the Society for the indefinite future, quite an advance from only twenty-five years ago when the Society officers, particularly Alfred Martin, were sorely concerned about how the impoverished Society could function. It is conceivable that the American Rhododendron Species Foundation could have had some impetus in its formation from the ARS Research Foundation, though that is another story that should be written. In the same vein, it is certain that the Magnolia Society patterned its own research foundation after its predecessor in ARS.

Certainly the present membership of the American Rhododendron Society takes pride in the accomplishments of its Research Foundation as can be shown by the generous way in which it is now being supported by contributions. The capital fund has now grown to $229,290. However, now is not the time when capital fund contributions should be diminished in the least. Having looked back, we should now look ahead. Your support of the Foundation will help accomplish even greater things in the future.

Pioneer Donors to the ARS Research Foundation: Inaugural Pledges, Valley Forge, 1976
Frank & Gay Arsen New York Dr. and Mrs. Don Kellam Piedmont G. Albert Reid Philadelphia
Azalea Study Group New York Bruce G. Keyser Potomac Valley Ted & Ann Richardson Southeastern
William F. Bedwell Mid-Atlantic Lorenzo F. Kinney, Jr. Connecticut Dr. Tom & Susan Ring Great Lakes
Jim & Ruth Beury Philadelphia William C. Klippel Tappan Zee S. E. Sanders Potomac Valley
Janet Binford Portland Austin C. Kennell Mid-Atlantic Henry A. Schannen Princeton
David D. Bloomfield Connecticut Wells Knierim Great Lakes Dorothy Schlaickjer New York
Emil V. Bohnel Tappan Zee A. G. Kokenakis, M.D. Great Lakes Ernest L. Schmidt Great Lakes
Bovees Nursery Tualatin Dr. Gustave E. Landt Philadelphia John L. Schultz Great Lakes
A. Richard Brooks Massachusetts E. J. Lapsley Mid-Atlantic Tom Schultz Valley Forge
Judson Brooks Great Lakes Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Layman Philadelphia Dr. A. Fred Serbin Connecticut
Jim R. Browning, M.D. Great Lakes R. H. Leavitt Philadelphia A. M. Shammarello Great Lakes
Lewis B. Carpenter Great Lakes G. S. Lee, Jr. Connecticut Gretchen G. Sirpo Portland
D. F. Chappell Piedmont S. R. Lipsky Connecticut D. & Mrs. John Slavitz Massachusetts
Mr. & Mrs. D. L. Cheney Philadelphia Hubert Lott Great Lakes Paul Sleezer New Jersey
J. Harold Clarke Portland Tracy M. Lounsbury Piedmont Ralph H. Smith Mohawk-Hudson
Mr. & Mrs. Bill Courson Potomac Valley Alfred S. Martin Philadelphia Dr. Herb & Betty Spady Portland
Mrs. M. L. Cropley Seattle J. H. McCarter William Bartram Hugh & Betty Sproul Mid-Atlantic
William & Chris Curtis Portland Walter & Jane McKay New York Marshall G. Stilwell Piedmont
Jack Evans, M.D. California Dr. Robert L. Meany Piedmont Fran & Maurice Sumner California
Allan Galloway Great Lakes Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Connecticut Ralph Synnestvedt Midwest
Robert Gartrell New York Edmund Mezitt Massachusetts William Thomson New York
Russell Gilkey Southeastern Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Miller Philadelphia Orris Thompson Tacoma
Marie Grula Philadelphia George Muller, Jr. Philadelphia Gordon K. Tooley Southeastern
Mr. & Mrs. C. R. Haag Southeastern Mrs. Harry Nash, Jr. Mid-Atlantic Ted VanVeen Portland
Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Hahn Indianapolis Dr. John & Caroline Neal Mid-Atlantic Dr. L. Keith Wade Vancouver, BC
Albert Hartman Great Lakes Thomas Norwood Piedmont Harvey Welch Portland
Steve Henning Valley Forge Charles Norwood Piedmont Frank H. West, M.D. Valley Forge
Lester B. High Valley Forge Alexandra Olafsen Connecticut Frank B. White, Jr. Potomac Valley
Polly Hill Philadelphia Lloyd & Lois Partain Valley Forge John C. White Potomac Valley
Mr. & Mrs. John Hill Valley Forge Andrew Paton Massachusetts Grace Wile Princeton
Dr. Robert P. Hrabak Azalea Mr. & Mrs. Robert Perry William Bartram John & Gertrude Wister Philadelphia
Mr. & Mrs. L. D. Huff Tacoma A. Eugene Pflug Seattle Philip D. Yaney Potomac
Howard P. Hunt Great Lakes B. C. Potter Mohawk-Hudson Dr. Ernest Yelton Southeastern
Mr. & Mrs. Jordan T. Jack Connecticut Lanny Pride Great Lakes
Clive Justice Vancouver, BC Adele Reboul New York
Dr. August Kehr Potomac Fred Rees Southeastern


Thanks and appreciation are extended to Ted Van Veen and Franklin West for assisting in this history.

Literature Cited
1. Anonymous. 1976. The Rhododendron Foundation. Quart. Bull. ARS 30(3): 140.
2. Binford, Janet E. 1984. Commemorative Giving-Fund New ARS Endowment. Jour. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 38(4): 181.
3. Kehr, August E. 1975. ARS Funds Twelve New Programs. Quart. Bull. ARS 29(3): 181.
4. Kehr, August E. 1975. President's Report. Quart Bull. ARS 29(4): 237, 240.
5. Kehr, August E. 1987. What Has ARS Research Done For You? Jour. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 41(4): 209-212.
6. Kehr, August E, and Alfred S. Martin. 1976. Rhododendron Research Foundation. Quart. Bull. ARS 30(4): 223-225.
7. Martin, Alfred S. 1975. President's Report. Quart. Bull. ARS 29(1): 33-34.
8. Martin, Alfred S. 1975. President's Report. Quart. Bull. ARS 29(2): 91-92.
9. Martin, Alfred S. 1976. Report of the ARS Foundation. Quart. Bull. ARS 33(2): 111.
10. Martin, Alfred S. 1980. Report of ARS Foundation. Quart. Bull. ARS 34(2): 108-109.