Wilder Visitor Center dedicated, donors honored at midsummer JCRA event

David Monks speaks at the dedication of the Wilder Visitor Center, where Legacy Bricks are now in the courtyard.
David Monks speaks at the dedication of the Wilder Visitor Center, where Legacy Bricks are now in the courtyard.

Friends of JC Raulston Arboretum assembled July 13 to honor those who have consistently supported the work of N.C. State University’s nationally renowned teaching and research garden. Specifically, they came to dedicate the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center and the Legacy Brick Circle Entrance. Garden tours and an ice cream social were among the activities enjoyed by more than 250 guests at the event, where Dr. John Dole, head of the Department of Horticultural Science in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, presided. Also participating in the program was Dr. David Monks, CALS horticultural science professor and assistant director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service.

Wilder, a longtime benefactor of the JCRA, was honored for his many hours of volunteer service, years of financial commitment and generous planned gifts. Included in the areas that Wilder has sponsored is a JCRA student internship program, supported by two endowments he created, and he has provided for the JCRA’s Endowment for Excellence through a will bequest.

Dole called Wilder “truly one of the Arboretum’s most treasured friends,” and noted that, since 2005, Wilder has given more than a half million dollars in outright and irrevocable planned gifts. 

“Bobby has given generously as a sponsor for almost every event held at the Arboretum – including the annual gala and other major symposia and events,” Dole said. “In addition to his other generous gifts, he has generously supported the JC Raulston Arboretum Endowment for Excellence – thus providing long-term support of its programs, research, extension and education.”

Additionally, Wilder has served the arb in almost every volunteer capacity, Dole told the audience. “He has logged nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service and many more hours before official volunteer records were kept.

“There are many other things that I could say about Bobby,” Dole said, “but you have a good idea why in 2006, the JCRA board and staff unanimously agreed that the visitor center should be named in his honor.”

Dole then shared the story of how Wilder had once told an arb visitor that the garden might be free to visit, but it’s not free to maintain.

“The story goes that the lady went directly to the McSwain Center and purchased a membership!” Dole said. “Bobby’s volunteerism, leadership and support have inspired many others to follow his exemplary lead. The JC Raulston Arboretum is lucky to have such an enthusiastic advocate for its programs.” 

The Legacy Bricks, laid near the JCRA entrance, bear the names of donors who purchased them support of the arboretum’s Endowment for Excellence. The endowment was created to fund in perpetuity the arb’s garden development, renovation, maintenance and new plant varieties; expansion of plant collections; adult and children’s programs; and technical support and more.

“It is my pleasure to thank each of you who purchased a brick in support of the JCRA’s Endowment for Excellence,” said Dole. “Your gift of a brick is a lasting legacy of support for the arboretum and to all the generations to come who will enjoy and benefit from this beautiful garden.”

Monks, bringing greetings from N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson and CALS Dean Rich Linton, said the JCRA “perfectly demonstrates the partnerships that the arboretum has forged with the community and the green industry. And it is a tranquil green space that the whole family can enjoy and appreciate.”

He thanked those present for their support of the “10-acre treasure on Beryl Road,” saying, “You have demonstrated through your gifts that you do support and advocate this precious green space and beautiful garden.”— Terri Leith     



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