Dr. Roy Lewis Taylor, In Memoriam
Born in Olds, Alberta, April 12th 1932, died in Nanaimo, British Columbia, May 2nd 2013
Roy always wanted to teach and did teach in a one-room school in rural Alberta and in Calgary, prior to obtaining a bachelor's degree While in Calgary, he was involved with the YMCA which sent him to Montreal, where he obtained his B.Sc. at Sir George Williams (now Concordia University). He studied one year at McGill, then went to the University of California Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in Botany. In the summers between academic years, he was an assistant on botanical surveys for Canada Agricultural field studies in western Canada, primarily in British Columbia.
After completing his graduate studies in 1962, he returned to Canada to work as a Research Officer in the Taxonomy and Economic Botany Section of Canada Agriculture, ultimately becoming Chief of the Section (1965-1968). During this time, he co-authored the first major floristic study of the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) culminating in the two volume Flora of the Queen Charlotte Islands (1968).
In 1968 Roy was appointed Director of the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. This provided the opportunity to establish a new garden for University and to serve as both a Professor of Botany, and of Plant Science (1968-1985). His research interest was in developing B. C.’s cytological flora. During his time he authored, co-authored, or edited over 150 publications.
Roy had the ability to surround himself with the right staff for the job recognizing their strongest attributes, and could find a new idea for a project, encourage that particular staff member to run with it, and then provide support all the way; and, of course the project flourished. He was a great advocate for public outreach to the community and in particular to the horticultural community. He established the Friends of the Garden (FOGs) whose efforts have raised the caliber andexpertise expected of garden volunteer groups worldwide. He pioneered horticulture therapy in collaboration with the GF Strong Centre in Vancouver. He and the FOGs presented two major art exhibitions, both of which traveled across the U.S. and Canada. The first, Plantae Occidentalis: Reflecting 200 years of Botanical Art in British Columbia (1979),opened at the UBC The Museum of Anthropology. The second exhibition was Cloud Flowers: East and west (1981). During his time at UBC, he was instrumental in establishing the Plant Introduction Program (PSIBG) to acquaint and widen the pallet of plants available to amateur and professional gardeners.
His first PhD student at UBC, Nancy Turner, is well known as one of the world’s finest ethnobotanists, and she has continued Roy’s commitment to the native flora and to BC’s First Nations.
In 1985 Roy was appointed President of the Chicago Horticultural Society and Director of the Chicago Botanic Garden, where he again introduced a plant introduction program similar to PSIBG (termed Chicagoland Grows). During this period, the CBG opened 10 new Garden elements, created a Research Center and added 60 more acres to the garden (1985-1994).
In 1994 he became Director of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, Claremont, California (1994-1999).. He also served as Professor and Chair of the Botany Graduate Program at Claremont Graduate University. As he did at UBC, Roy continued his efforts to strengthen the volunteer support through organizations that have become so effective in the support of botanic gardens andare now an important part of the American Public Garden Association (previously the American Association of Arboreta & Botanic Gardens), of which he was President and an Honorary Life Member. He was a founding member of the Canadian Botanical Association/Association Botanique du Canada (1964); the Association of Professional Biologists of British Columbia. He served on the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums (1980-1991), serving as Chair for six years, and helped establish the guidelines for the Ethics Commission. He maintained hisinterest in botanical art as a collector and a member and Board Director of the American Society of Botanical Artists.
Over his career, Roy built an internationally-renowned reputation for directing botanical gardens. This was recognized in 1987 when he was appointed as a founding director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, an organization working to ensure the worldwide conservation of threatened plants. He received many awards and honors, membership honoris causa in the Linnean Society of London (1978), and two Honorary D.Sc. degrees, from UBC (1997) and Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo (2009).
He retired to Lantzville in 1999, and was active with Milner Gardens and Woodland (Qualicum Beach) as a Director and Chairman of the MGW Society (2000-2012); the Elizabeth Carey Miller Botanic Garden Board (Seattle, WA); and the Bloedel Reserve (Bainbridge Island, WA) as a Director and President of the Board. The garden that Roy and Janet built at their home in Lantzville is yet another example of his love and appreciation of plants and concern for native flora. There will be a private celebration of Roy’s spirit and life in the coming months.
Contributed by Dr. Janet Taylor, pulled from the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research