JARS v58n2 - In Memoriam: Ian Donovan

In Memoriam: Ian Donovan
Susan Clark

Ian Donovan was born in 1932 and died Dec. 27, 2003.

Ian might not have seemed like someone destined to be a plantsman during his early career. He got a degree in Business Administration from Ohio State University and then a M.S. degree from George Washington University in International Affairs. He joined the United States Navy as a career officer in 1955 and served in surface warships for nine years and then twelve years on shore duty in US joint service before retiring in 1980 with the rank of Commander.

He was becoming a plantsman, even before he retired from the Navy. In 1975 he joined the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the ARS and served as its president for two years. When he retired from the Navy and moved from Korea to Newton, Massachusetts, he joined the Mass Chapter. In 1983 he started the Species Study Group, which has been active ever since. He felt that the detailed study of species was an essential activity for growers and hybridizers. He always considered the SSG one of the chapter's "most distinguished activities."

He led the group for many years as it diligently studied the huge slide lectures from the Rhododendron Species Foundation. The course demanded precision and correct terminology and nomenclature. We tackled the highly Latinate vocabulary of formal botany, tried to distinguish hundreds of species, and even made headway at learning the geography of the Far East - urged on by Ian with his military precision and thoroughness. Ian combed the international plant journals for relevant articles, so we could have the most up-to-date information. He was an active member of the group for twenty years, until his illness prevented him from attending the meetings.

Ian became a member of the Board of Directors of the chapter for the first time in 1984 as treasurer. He was the editor of the Rosebay in 1988, in addition to serving on several hard-working committees and offering the educational programs at the Truss Show and Auction. On the Board he pushed for formalizing and regularizing the workings of that body and served on the most recent By-laws Committee. When a vice president was urgently needed, Ian volunteered in 1997 and took on the responsibility of being newsletter editor at the same time. He became President in 1998, shepherded the chapter through hosting the 2000 Convention, as well as continuing to formalize and clarify the policies of Board. He tackled everything he did with thoroughness and rigor.

Ian continued to write articles, teach courses, participate in the Species Study Group, and run his small nursery during his years as president. When his term was over, he again stepped forward when the chapter needed a new editor of the Rosebay; he produced both chapter publications until May 2002, when his worsening health forced him to relinquish the newsletter. As editor, Ian made good use of his considerable writing and editing skills, not to mention his ability to persuade reluctant contributors to write articles. He wrote many articles and book reviews himself. In the last year, when his health prevented him from working in his beloved garden, he still communicated with many rhodoholics and azalea enthusiasts via the Internet, wrote many articles and produced several editions of the Rosebay.

The chapter benefited enormously from Ian's tireless devotion to the group and to the study and cultivation of the plants he so loved. He never shirked from work that needed to be done and never hesitated to take responsibility. He expected the same commitment and energy from those with whom he served. The chapter awarded him the Bronze Medal, our highest honor, in 2000. The two Azalea Trophies at the big show are given in his honor.

Ian is survived by five daughters and his wife, Jane Shafrin, whom he wed with great pleasure in 1994. Our condolences to them. We will miss this intrepid leader, dedicated volunteer, passionate plantsman and good friend.