Award of Merit
Dr. Susan L. Hamilton is recently retired from the University of Tennessee (UT) where she was Director of the UT Gardens and Associate Professor of Public Horticulture, Department of Plant Sciences. She was the leader in advocating, formulating, and maintaining a Plant Sciences major concentration in Public Horticulture at that institution. At a time when few higher learning institutions offered a pathway to train future public garden leaders Dr. Hamilton collaborated with other pioneers in the academic public horticulture field and developed curricula and recruited students. The result has been that hundreds of her students in the disciplines of Public Horticulture and Ornamental Horticulture are in leadership positions in the private and public sectors including horticultural businesses, private and public gardens and academia.
Through her leadership and vision, what began as a few beds of annual variety tests plots became the UT Gardens – a 10- acre living laboratory and public garden of over 2500 plants that serves the teaching, research and outreach missions of the University and the greater community. Further, she saw the potential of other UT research sites across the state and two other locations were subsequently added to the UT Gardens system. In 2013, Dr. Hamilton was successful in spearheading the effort to have the UT Gardens declared the State Botanical Garden of Tennessee by the state legislature.
Dr. Hamilton has shared her passion of plants and nature while disseminating science- based horticulture information to students, green industry professionals, and the public.
Her reach has been felt from the local garden club to the national level. She served with distinction on several national organizations including APGA, ASHS, Pi Alpha Xi, American Conifer Society and the Perennial Plant Association. She received honors and awards from the Perennial Plant Association, All-America Selections, Gamma Sigma Delta, UT Chancellor, and others. She chaired or served on the committee of more than 30 graduate and PhD students. Additionally, she authored or edited hundreds of articles on horticulture and public gardening in refereed journals, industry publications, and the popular press. She co-authored the book The Best Garden Plants in Tennessee and was co-host for many years of a popular local radio show called “Garden Girls”.
Dr. Hamilton has demonstrated throughout her career the ability to connect with people and to instill in them a better understanding and indeed a passion of why and how they can connect with nature.
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