World class botanist receives Honorary Doctorate from VIU

March 6, 2009 - 2:23am

World renowned botanist Dr. Roy L. Taylor will receive a special honor from Vancouver Island University recognizing his extensive work in botany over the past 50 years.

Dr. Taylor, one of the founding directors of Milner Gardens & Woodland Society, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from VIU at the convocation ceremony in June.

“This award is completely unexpected,” said Dr. Taylor, who lives in Lantzville with his wife Janet. “I am honored and pleased.”

Dr. Taylor is a highly recognized world class botanic leader with an impressive record of achievement in teaching, research and public service.

“During his long and illustrious career, Dr. Taylor has demonstrated a commitment to excellence and innovation that is an inspiration,” said VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson.  “Roy has been instrumental in guiding and supporting the development of VIU’s Milner Gardens & Woodland Society, and has made a remarkable contribution to the field of botany regionally, nationally and internationally. He is a man of broad and varied interests who demonstrates a remarkable zest for life and learning.”

Dr. Taylor began his career as an elementary school teacher near Olds, Alberta in 1950. After teaching briefly at a junior high school in Calgary, he returned to university to complete a degree in Biology at Sir George Williams University, a Master’s at McGill University and a PhD in Botany at the University of California, Berkeley in 1962.

After several years as a research scientist, Dr. Taylor moved to the university environment with various appointments as a lecturer, professor and adjunct professor. His commitment to the field of botany goes back to the summers of the late 1950s when he worked as a Botanical Survey Assistant. During that time, he was part of a team surveying and cataloguing plants in the Queen Charlottes.

Dr. Taylor worked his way up to senior appointments with Agriculture Canada, eventually becoming Chief of Agriculture Canada’s Taxonomy and Economic Botany Section.

From there, Dr. Taylor discovered his true calling as director of several world renowned botanical gardens. He served as Director of University of British Columbia’s Botanical Garden from 1968 to 1985; Executive Director of Chicago Botanic Garden from 1985 to 1994 – one of the larger gardens in the world; and as Director of Rancho Santo Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont, California from 1994 to 1999, as well as serving as professor and chair of the graduate botany program for Claremont Graduate University.

“These and many other public gardens in Canada and the US have benefitted from Dr. Taylor’s knowledge and expertise, which he has shared widely,” said Geoff Ball, Executive Director of Milner Gardens & Woodland Society. “In Canada, he provided advice and assistance to gardens across the country from the Newfoundland Botancial Garden to Royal Roads on Vancouver Island.”

Dr. Taylor was a founding member of the Canadian Botanical Association and served as vice-president and president, and served as a member of the national Research Council of Canada Advisory Committee on Biology.

During his career, Dr. Taylor published over 150 scientific and technical articles, reviews and books. As editor or editorial board member of several scientific journals, including the Canadian Journal of Botany, he has had a strong influence on botanical research.

After retiring in 1999, Dr. Taylor was appointed to the Founding Board of the Milner Gardens & Woodland Society and served as Chair for five years.

“His advice and assistance with many aspects of the development of Milner Gardens has been invaluable to the staff and volunteers at Milner as well as the University’s administration,” said Ball. “He has helped with everything from plant records to donor development, and continues to serve as a volunteer in many different roles. There have been very few areas where his guidance hasn’t been sought and followed.”

During Dr. Taylor’s leadership of the Society, Milner Gardens has grown from having a handful of volunteers to a group of more than 250 and welcoming over 20,000 visitors annually. Milner Gardens & Woodland Society has a strong children’s program, reaching 1,000 children and young people every year, an active community education program and several annual events for the public. “Dr. Taylor was active in the implementation of all of this,” added Ball.

The fact that Milner Gardens was named one of the top 10 public gardens in Canada last year “is well deserving,” said Dr. Taylor. He enjoys serving as a member of the Board and feels deep gratification that the garden’s success grows every year.

Dr. Taylor has received many awards and special recognitions including an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of BC in 1997, plus many national and international honors including the American Association of Botanical Gardens & Arboreta, Award of Merit; Canadian Botanical Association Mary E Elliott Service award and Chicago Horticultural Society Medal. In 2006, Dr. Taylor was inducted into the American Association of Museums Centennial Honor Roll recognizing 100 of the most important contributors to the Association since it was formed.

Dr. Taylor is also an honorary life member of the American Public Gardens Association, which is the key association for all public gardens in North America.

A major career highlight for Dr. Taylor was his appointment as the founding director of Botanic Garden Conservation International, based in London, England.

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