As N.C. State University’s 125th anniversary year, 2012 has already included many celebratory observances. This year’s Gala in the Garden at the university’s JC Raulston Arboretum was prominent among them, offering its own special commemoration: The annual garden party and fund-raising event doubled as a birthday party for N.C. State.
And that wasn’t the only milestone being marked. This year is the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Morrill Act which enabled the creation of the nation’s land-grant universities. It is also the annual garden gala’s 20th anniversary, and later this year the JCRA will host a celebration of the 10th anniversary of its Ruby C. McSwain Education Center complex.
Held May 6, the ever-popular event at the JCRA – internationally renowned for its diverse gardens, plant collections and horticultural research and education sites – drew 525 registered guests.
On a comfortably cool spring day, garden enthusiasts browsed among eight silent auction tents which featured eclectic collections, botanicals and “finer things.” Guests were served garden drinks and locally grown gourmet selections, to the accompaniment of live music by the Joy Recorder Ensemble.
As befitting the university’s birthday, red and white were dominant décor colors – from the frothy tablecloths and matching umbrellas to the red lion amaryllises brightening grassy paths to tree-shaded glades.
In the evening, guests moved to the McSwain Center for coffee and dessert of N.C. State ice cream and cupcakes, followed by a program themed around the 125th anniversary.
Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, welcomed guests and recognized the efforts of the 2012 gala event chair, Charlie Kidder, a landscaping business owner, gardening columnist and longtime JCRA volunteer.
Serving as the gala’s honorary chair was Frank Grainger, member of the UNC Board of Governors and of the N.C. Tobacco and Agricultural Foundations, who was introduced by N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson.
Woodson also spoke about the roots of N.C. State and the efforts of the Watauga Club, the group of North Carolina leaders who fought to establish the state’s land-grant institution for higher education in Raleigh. After honoring the university’s past and ongoing transformational impact, Woodson turned his attention to Dean Wynne, who will be retiring this summer after eight years as CALS dean and 50 years of affiliation with N.C. State, as student and faculty member. Listing the many accomplishments of the College during Wynne’s tenure, Woodson said, “Thank you, Johnny, for your dedicated service and leadership.”
Dr. Ted Bilderback, JCRA director, also thanked Wynne and conferred upon him a lifetime membership at the arboretum. He invited the dean to take part in “some terrific volunteer opportunities,” as he presented Wynne a JCRA volunteer “uniform” hat and shirt.
By day’s end, there was something else to celebrate: The silent auction had raised more than $31,000, and sponsor gifts totaled $52,000, according to Anne Porter, CALS director of development for the JCRA.
“When the pre-gala plant sale totals are included, I feel very comfortable saying that we reached our net goal of $80,000 this year,” she said. “Of course this event is the arboretum’s main fund-raising event of the year, and the net proceeds support garden development, maintenance and plant collections – plus many staff salaries — all vital to the daily operations of the JCRA and ultimately the enjoyment of our many visitors.”
Those daily operations include the arboretum’s ongoing workshops, symposia, lectures and family programs – and all the things that grow in the place that is “Raleigh’s Garden.” – Terri Leith
Below are more scenes from the gala: