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2023 National GCA Medalists Announced


January 09, 2023

Highest Honors for Distinguished Achievements

The Garden Club of America announced the recipients of the 2023 national medals, the highest honors bestowed upon individuals by the GCA for distinguished achievements in areas related to its purpose. With a long-standing tradition of celebrating extraordinary efforts to protect and beautify the planet, The Garden Club of America will present the medals at its 110th annual meeting in May.

The Garden Club of America is pleased to honor the following 2023 medalists.

Louie Schwartzberg

Creative Conservationist and Visionary Filmmaker

The Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal, awarded by specific request to non-members for exemplary service and creative vision in any field related to The Garden Club of America’s special interests, will be presented to Louie Schwartzberg for his world-renowned work that changes the way we see nature.

A barrier breaking visual artist, Louie Schwartzberg tells stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries and wisdom of nature, people, and places. He is the only artist to be inducted into the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is celebrated for his world renowned imagery projected on the Vatican Basilica.

As a humanitarian, conservationist, filmmaker, and photographer he compels us to preserve and protect the environment with his breathtaking images of nature. A pioneer in time lapse photography, his latest film Fantastic Fungi explores the world of mushrooms and mycelium and illustrates how this fascinating organism can provide sustainable solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems.

Louie’s acclaimed Netflix series Moving Art is currently in season three. Each episode immerses viewers in the natural world, taking viewers on a journey through time and scale. With more than sixty million combined views, his TED talks are a viral sensation.

By creating works that explore nature and the future of the planet, Louie is opening people’s hearts and helping us sustain and celebrate life.

Proposed by Hancock Park Garden Club, Zone XII

Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO)

Blending the Power of Music and Nature

The Amy Angell Collier Montague Medal presented for outstanding civic achievement will be awarded to the Boston Symphony Orchestra for its outstanding community programming showcasing the power of music and nature.

Founded in 1881, the Boston Symphony Orchestra believes in music and nature’s transformative power. As the second oldest of America's five major symphony orchestras, its work has had a multi-faceted positive impact on the community.

The orchestra’s programming includes performances in outdoor parks, horticultural education, and conservation of Tanglewood, its renowned music center in the Berkshires for emerging music professionals. BSO has also supported Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, the chain of parks that stretches from Boston Common to Franklin Park by commissioning and performing a 15-minute chamber symphony composed by Andrew List. Each of its three movements is named after a portion of the park system. BSO community engagement programs demonstrate a deep dedication to building community through collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships and shared artistic experiences that connect people of all ages and musical backgrounds.

It is clear the Boston Symphony Orchestra has had a remarkable and lasting impact on the civic life of Boston for 141 years.

Proposed by Chestnut Hill Garden Club, Zone I

Robert J. Berkebile

Green Building Pioneer

The Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal, given for outstanding achievement in environmental protection and the maintenance of the quality of life, will be presented to Bob Berkebile for his outstanding conservation advocacy and helping to form the US Green Building Council and its LEED rating system.
An architect of international reputation, Bob J. Berkebile was instrumental in forming the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED rating system. Bob has been active in greening revered U.S. treasures including the White House, Pentagon, National Parks, and the Grand Canyon. He is also known as an advocate for conservation in the urban landscape and soil regeneration.
He received the Heinz Award for his role in promoting green building design and for his commitment and action towards restoring social, economic, and environmental vitality to America’s communities through sustainable architecture and planning. Bob is also the founding chair of the American Institute of Architects’ National Committee on the Environment. 
Currently he is redeveloping the Blue River watershed and surrounding neighborhoods to transform a collection of abandoned industrial, military, and other sites into a regenerative economy for the community and a national model for Opportunity Zone funding.

Bob has made all our lives cleaner and much greener with his deep knowledge, outstanding commitment, and ongoing advocacy for sustainable practices.

Proposed by The Westport Garden Club, Zone XI

Jack Nicklaus

Champion Golfer, Designer and Conservationist

The Frances K. Hutchinson Medal, awarded to figures of national importance for distinguished service to conservation, will be given to Jack Nicklaus for his pioneering conservation practices in golf course design and for rehabilitating urban sites.

Jack Nicklaus, the famed professional golfer and golf course architect, is also a pioneer of conservation practices in golf course design. He is committed to utilizing native plants and limiting the use of pesticides.
For fifty years, he has strived to enhance and not compete with Mother Nature’s canvas. Nicklaus Design courses around the world have been recognized for their sound environmental practices. Jack was one of the first to design self-sustaining golf courses which require minimal fertilizers and plant-protective materials. He is also committed to paying it forward by donating his services to economically challenged communities like Benton Harbor, Michigan where he designed and built a golf course on land once scarred by landfills, toxic waste, and abandoned factories. Proceeds from golf played at the course are being put back into the community.

Jack has leveraged his knowledge and celebrity to demonstrate effective environmental stewardship in golf course development and to show that one can combine a love of golf, community, and nature.

Proposed by Cherie Lucks, Little Garden Club of Columbus, Zone X

Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University's Stone Lab

Protecting Our Freshwater Seas 

The Margaret Douglas Medal, awarded for notable service to the cause of conservation education, will be given to Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Lab for its outstanding clean water research and educational leadership.
Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University's Stone Lab is a national leader in research and education on water quality and the environment. Located at Ohio State University’s Columbus campus, it is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 34 Sea Grant Programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. 
Stone Laboratory, its education and outreach facility on Lake Erie, serves scientists from across the Great Lakes region, offering lab facilities, field work equipment, research vessels, and housing for researchers studying Lake Erie. Its classes, workshops, and field trips at Stone Lab give students and working professionals the knowledge they need to protect Lake Erie. By combining research, education, and outreach, in collaboration with Great Lakes communities, its dedicated staff guide decisions regarding Lake Erie and the region’s environmental issues and are responsible for national water alerts and public safety. 
For more than 40 years, Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University's Stone Lab have worked to protect the environment of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes and provide water quality research to the nation.
Proposed by Akron Garden Club, Zone X 


Carole Maida Bailey

Gifted GCA Floral Designer and Teacher

The Katharine Thomas Cary Medal, presented in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of floral design education, will be awarded to Carole Maida Bailey for her ability to combine her floral artistic talent with a passion for sharing her knowledge with others.

Carole Maida Bailey has distinguished herself within her club, her community, the GCA and the nation for her creative floral designs and her willingness to share her knowledge through workshops and programs. She is an enthusiastic and patient teacher, changing the way we view Mother Nature’s gifts.

Originally a member of the Magnolia Garden Club in her hometown of Beaumont, TX, Carole is currently a member of the River Oaks Garden Club in Houston. She has won numerous floral design awards and has been featured in local, national, and international publications. She has been a GCA Floral Design Judge since 2004, chaired the 2014 Annual Meeting Flower Show in New Orleans, and represented the U.S. at the World Association of Floral Artists in Boston and India. A passionate Botanical Arts exhibitor, she is in the GCA’s first class of approved Botanical Arts judges.

Carole has made her mark locally, nationally and internationally as an extraordinary flower arranger and gifted teacher.

Proposed by River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX

Staci L. Catron

Passionate Garden Preservationist and Scholar


The Historic Preservation Medal, given for outstanding work in the field of preservation and/or restoration of historic gardens or buildings of national importance, will be awarded to Staci Catron for her significant contributions as a garden preservationist and scholar.

Staci Catron is the director of the Cherokee Garden Library, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center, and a past president of the Southern Garden History Society.
The Cherokee Garden Library under Staci’s leadership has become a premier institution for the study of gardening, landscape design, garden history, horticulture, cultural and natural landscapes and plant ecology.

An award-winning author, Staci has had a significant impact in documenting gardens and archiving garden and landscape literature. Her strategic acquisitions policy expanded the resource and research material on American gardens for scholars nationwide. She is also a favorite GCA speaker and honorary member since 2014. Seeking Eden, the book she co-authored with Mary Ann Eaddy, explores the impact of the women who envisioned and nurtured many of Georgia’s historic gardens.

A nationally renowned historic preservation scholar and passionate advocate, Staci is an engaging leader and educator who teaches us all why preserving our past stories can help guide us today and in the future.
Proposed by Cherokee Garden Club, Zone VIII

Roy Diblik

New Perennial Plantsman

The Medal of Honor, awarded for outstanding service to horticulture, will be presented to Roy Diblik, a leader in the New Perennial Movement who has changed the landscape in public and home gardens around the country.

An acclaimed plantsman, author and owner of Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin, Roy Diblik is considered a leader in the New Perennial Movement incorporating naturalistic planting designs which feature native plants, hearty perennials and grasses that work well together. He is credited with introducing North American native plants to Piet Oudolf when Roy collaborated with him on Chicago’s Lurie Garden that opened in 2004.
A GCA honorary member, Roy is well known to many. He is highly regarded for his plain-spoken style, good humor, and generosity in sharing his deep knowledge and affection for plants. In addition to Lurie Garden, his work can be found in significant public gardens across the country. His best-selling book The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden makes a design-magazine-worthy garden achievable at home. His entertaining and informative YouTube videos have helped make this style of gardening approachable to all.

Roy’s impressive understanding and passion for plants make him a nationally influential horticulturist and teacher.

Proposed by Lake Geneva Garden Club, Zone XI

Darrel Morrison

Sustainable Landscape Architect and Educator

The Mrs. Oakleigh Thorne Medal, awarded for outstanding achievement in design, architecture, or art related to the garden, will be given to Darrel Morrison for his ecological restoration, sustainable design work, and teaching.

Darrel Morrison has made a lasting impact on public and private landscapes across America and on the science and art of American gardening. He has championed ecological restoration, sustainable design, and native plants across the United States. A revered landscape architecture educator, Darrel has inspired and touched the lives of students at Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin, Rutgers, the University of Georgia, and the New York Botanical Garden.
Darrel was an early pioneer in the use of native plants in landscape design, studying plant associations and the examination of the complex plant, soil and weather interactions to create a new sustainable vision of beauty. Through his teaching and practice, Darrel taught a new generation to incorporate ecology and botany in the use of native grasses in landscape design.

His landscape design work includes Storm King Art Center, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center in Austin, the Native Plant Garden at the University of Wisconsin, the Old Stone Mill landscape at the New York Botanical Garden, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Native Plant Garden Extension. He co-founded Landscape Journal and has been a frequent contributor to Landscape Architecture magazine. 

Darrel is being recognized for his lifetime garden-related achievements in teaching, publishing, advocacy, conservation, and sustainable design practice.

Proposed by Julie Sakellariadis, Garden Club of East Hampton, Zone III

Carlton Ward, Jr.

Endangered Species Champion and Photographer

The J. Sherwood Chalmers Medal, awarded for outstanding achievement in the field of photography and/or photography education as it relates to the purpose of The Garden Club of America, will be presented to Carlton Ward, Jr. for using photography to help protect endangered species and the environment.

Carlton Ward, Jr. is an enthusiastic conservationist and award-winning National Geographic photographer and filmmaker who tells the stories of endangered species and the need for a sustainable environment. He is a proud eighth-generation Floridian, descended from a pioneer ranching family, and a GCA honorary member.
Carlton played a pivotal role in creating the Florida Wildlife Corridor through legislative advocacy, protecting eighteen million acres of land and water. In 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida Wildlife Corridor bill into law. This project connects 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 habitat and water sources from development. Carlton’s photographs showed how farmers and ranchers are part of the solution, protecting biodiversity and wildlife corridors. Path of the Panther, another project has brought attention to America’s most endangered cat.
Carlton’s work behind the camera on PBS and in National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Nature Conservancy magazines captures the purpose of the GCA, helping to change attitudes and spur people to conserve Florida’s ecosystem.
Proposed by Garden Club of Palm Beach, Zone VIII

Learn more about the history of these national medals and previous winners.


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