July 11th, 2014
It would be great to talk to you all personally (and I did try today to do that!), but I wanted all to have the news today. Itís time for me to transition to the faculty and for the Garden to be launched into a new era. Since Iíve had conversations with many of you about this subject, I donít think this will come as a shock! Iíve tried to prepare you for the news. Whether this year or next, it has seemed inevitable to me and only a question of timing.
I could fill pages with the pros and cons about this, but it really boils down to two essential facts:
First, the Garden needs a full-time director. Iíve been thinking about this for several years and the Provostís Office is now ready and willing to take this great evolutionary step in the history of the Garden. The Garden is so wonderful that it will attract great candidates. With the Provostís Office support for this now, I say, as Chancellor Thorp did about our building, ďTime to declare victory and move onĒ. Very importantly, a window has opened and we need to act on it.
Second, my age: I turned 66 this year and will likely be nearing or past 67 when the new director is on board. Dr. Bell retired at 65 and I will be 2 years passed that benchmark! As the great bard, Mr. Bob Dylan, wrote in a recent song (did you think I could pass up this opportunity?), ďNo man, no woman knows the hour that sorrow will comeĒ. I think I felt relatively immortal until I turned 65, but for the past year Iíve been thinking about the books and other projects I want to finish as my career winds down. After a year or two, under my faculty position, I will also take advantage of UNCís phased retirement programóa three year program that will leave me in my 70s even if I start soon!
These two factors have led me to decide to step down as Director of the NCBG effective December 31, 2014 so that I can devote the remainder of my career to teaching, research, and writing. Carol Tresolini soon will appoint a search committee to identify candidates for the Garden's first ever full-time director position. The goal will be to have someone in place on January 1. Of course, I will continue to serve as Director during the search through the end of the calendar year.
Iíve learned from Ritchie to stay out of the way of the next director (but to be available for advice) and Iíve learned from Ken Moore that the Garden is a good and productive place for hanging out and doing good things, so you can expect me to do both in the coming years. Maybe I'll still have a few more books in me--to complete in the new Herbarium building.
The Garden has become fabulousóthe Education Center and closing of Laurel Hill Road, the national importance of our conservation programs, the acquisition of the Herbarium, Battle Park, and Forest Theatre, the elimination of our loan, the great blossoming (literally) of the programs here, the national awards. Iíve been feeling for the past year that this is a really good time to turn over the this major institution to future generations! In Biology 565, I end the semester with lecture that pulls all the threads together from the course and points out that I, as professor, am handing them, as students, a baton that must be passed inevitably and that they too will pass the baton along one day. Imagine that baton as biodiversity or a world with a healthy environment (of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, as Bill McDonough suggested) or the Garden itself, and you can see why this step is inevitable and you can sense the importance of this "handing off".
Iíll think of ways to thank all of you for this great period in my life. You all are essential to the Garden and I have greatly appreciated your passion for the work you have done over these years and are continuing to do.
I wanted to let you know before Maine (July 20-August 12) because I didnít want to announce and then leave town and I wanted the Provostís Office to get going on the processÖso today was the day.