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2022 GCA Honorary Members Announced


January 13, 2022

Achievements in Horticulture, Ecology, Education, and Photography Celebrated

The Garden Club of America is pleased to announce that seven women and men of distinction have been named honorary members for 2022. Since 1916, the GCA has recognized the extraordinary achievements of more than 400 honorary members in the fields of horticulture or conservation, or whose knowledge and interests align with the GCA purpose. With appreciation for their achievements, the GCA welcomes the following new honorary members for 2022:


Proposed by Albemarle Garden Club 
Seconded by The Tuckahoe Garden Club of Westhampton


Peggy Cornett, curator of plants at Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, has worked at the iconic gardens for thirty-eight years. From 1992-2009, she was director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Tufton Farm, adjacent to Monticello. There, Ms. Cornett managed its unique nursery and collection of historic and native plant varieties, including the Léonie Bell Rose Garden, which features the Musk and Old Blush China Roses and early nineteenth-century Noisette rose varieties. Many of her articles on historic plants and Monticello’s gardens appear online and in the center’s Twinleaf Journal.


Ms. Cornett is well-known nationally for her horticulture expertise and is a frequent guest on NPR, PBS’s Virginia Home Grown, and the Arkansas-based TV program, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. Since 1990, Ms. Cornett has edited the Southern Garden History Society’s quarterly journal, Magnolia. She wrote Popular Annuals of Eastern North America, 1865-1914, later published by Dumbarton Oaks, for her master’s degree.


Proposed by Broadmoor Garden Club 
Seconded by Perennial Garden Club


Paul Alan Cox, PhD, recipient of the GCA’s Eloise Payne Luquer Medal, is a world-renowned ethnobotanist searching for cures for diseases by studying indigenous plants and their uses. He has worked to discover a promising drug candidate for HIV/AIDS from the bark of a Samoan tree. While working in Samoa, Dr. Cox founded Seacology, an environmental organization that has preserved 98,000 acres of rainforest and 1.7 million acres of coral reefs on islands worldwide.

After a distinguished academic career, Dr. Cox turned his focus to neurodegenerative diseases, comparing patterns of illness and wellness in island villages. He and his colleagues made discoveries in Guam that led to advanced clinical trials for possible treatments for ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. 

Dr. Cox is executive director of Brain Chemistry Labs, a not-for-profit organization in Jackson, Wyoming, with a consortium of fifty scientists working to further this research. His compassion and groundbreaking achievements in scientific research are changing the paradigm. 



Proposed by Trustees’ Garden Club 
Seconded by Junior Ladies’ Garden Club


James W. Porter, PhD, is the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professor, Odum School of Ecology, Emeritus, at the University of Georgia, specializing in the ecology of coral reefs and marine consequences of global climate change. Coral reefs are a critical protective buffer to shorelines, support biodiversity, and are home to roughly twenty-five percent of all marine life. Dr. Porter has testified multiple times before Congress on the impact of global warming on coral reefs. He also testified at the United Nations on the environmental and human health effects on coral reefs of abandoned underwater, unexploded ordnance. ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and CBS Evening News have featured his work.  

Dr. Porter was the chief scientific adviser for and appeared in the 2017 documentary, Chasing Coral, which won the 2017 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, a 2018 Peabody Award, and the 2018 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nature Documentary. Dr. Porter was the keynote speaker at the GCA’s 2019 NAL conference. 


Proposed by The Garden Club of Philadelphia 
Seconded by The Gardeners

Since becoming president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) in 2016, Matt Rader has focused on expanding PHS’s efforts to use horticulture to advance the health and well-being of the communities in the greater Philadelphia region and beyond. Mr. Rader’s strategic plan, “Gardening for the Greater Good,” demonstrates that horticulture has the power to make positive social and environmental changes.  

Civic improvement has blossomed. The Tree Tenders program educates residents on the importance of planting and maintaining newly planted trees to benefit urban communities. Responding to COVID-19, Mr. Rader moved the celebrated Philadelphia Flower Show outdoors to FDR Park in June to widespread approval. 

PHS partnered with the Tyler Arboretum to increase the vegetable food production in the one-acre garden to meet COVID-19 food needs at two local food pantries. A new program, “Harvest 2020,” will help over 10,000 individuals grow their food and share it in their communities. 








Proposed by Garden Guild of Winnetka 
Seconded by Kenilworth Garden Club

Fred R. Spicer inspires people to share his passion for plants. Trained as a landscape architect with a broad knowledge of horticulture, he has taught “best plant practices and selections” through the living collections at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and now at Chicago Botanic Garden.  

In 2017, Mr. Spicer became the director of the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of our nation’s major living museums and conservation science centers.   

During his fifteen-year tenure at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, he led the transition from the city’s public garden to a vital urban green space for the region, with carefully-planned demonstration gardens, science-based programs for all ages, and an emphasis on conservation.  
Mr. Spicer has been involved with the GCA’s Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference, inspiring attendees in 2010 in Birmingham, and again in 2020 in Chicago, sharing favorite themed gardens combining good design with beneficial plants.





Proposed by Beacon Hill Garden Club 
Seconded by Cambridge Plant & Garden Club

Judith B. Tankard is a landscape historian, author, lecturer, and preservation consultant. Her work has been seminal in raising the awareness of the gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement and of 19th and 20th-century women garden designers and landscape architects Gertrude Jekyll, Beatrix Farrand, Ellen Biddle Shipman, Nellie B. Allen, and Rose Standish Nichols. 

For two decades, Ms. Tankard taught at the Landscape Institute of Harvard University and is a popular lecturer in the US and Britain. She authored and co-authored ten illustrated books on landscape history, including the prize-winning Ellen Shipman and the American Garden and Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes, the latter being the inspiration for the first documentary on Farrand, The Life, and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand. Ms. Tankard was a featured speaker on the video. 
Affiliated with many organizations, Ms. Tankard was the New England Garden History Society founder and a long-time board member of the Beatrix Farrand Society. 







Proposed by Late Bloomers Garden Club 
Seconded by The Garden Club of the Halifax Country

A passionate conservationist and award-winning photographer and filmmaker, Carlton Ward Jr. uses his photos to tell the stories of endangered species and the need for a sustainable environment. In 2010, he founded and advocated for the Florida Wildlife Corridor project to connect all of Florida’s national and state parks with tracts of open land from the Panhandle to the Keys, ensuring the survival of wildlife by protecting their habitat. In 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida Wildlife Corridor bill into law. Another project, “Path of the Panther,” brings attention to America’s most endangered cat. 
An eighth-generation Floridian descended from a pioneer ranching family, Mr. Ward’s photographs show how farmers and ranchers are part of the solution, protecting biodiversity and wildlife corridors. His work on PBS and in National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Nature Conservancy magazines has helped change attitudes and spurred people to conserve Florida’s ecosystem.  


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