The Carolina campus is a
great outdoor classroom, and one of its most devoted interpreters and
caretakers is the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
The 23 garden staff members watch over
such beautiful, beloved spaces as the Coker Arboretum, the Mason Farm
Biological Reserve, and the piedmont nature trails, Mercer Reeves
Hubbard Herb Garden, and coastal plain and mountain habitats
surrounding garden headquarters at the Totten Center on Old Mason Farm
Road. Up to 100,000 people a year visit one or more of these gardens
and natural areas.
But what happens when they want to come
indoors? When, for example, the annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibit
packs ’em in at the Totten Center? Or a public class on landscaping
with native plants draws a crowd? Or UNC students take a break from
walking the nearby nature trails and search the center for a drink
Well, at the Totten Center it’s an
uncomfortably tight squeeze. The 5,000-square-foot concrete-block
building is cheerful but spartan, and staff and visitors shoehorn
themselves in, out and around each other every day. The front
reception desk doubles as a gift shop, the plant propagation room is
in a hallway, the one multi-purpose meeting room is heavily booked,
and the small Addie Totten Library doubles as a meeting room too.
Offices overflow with plants, books and files. An honor-system kiosk
out back serves visitors buying native plants. House-proud the Bot
Garden is not!
All this is about to change.
A $2.6 million bequest by Katherine
Bradley Mouzon, a volunteer tour guide at the garden for 25 years,
will hasten the building of a long-planned visitor education center.
With classrooms and meeting rooms, an auditorium, a volunteers’ room
and staff offices, it will comfortably accommodate large numbers of
visitors and students who show up for guided tours or enroll in the 45
to 50 classes, workshops and field trips offered annually at the
"Kay’s gift sent our spirits
soaring," says NCBG director Peter White. "In the long term
it will help transform what we do — both our physical facilities and
our ability to bring knowledge and information to the people of North
Kay Mouzon died in 1998. In the year
before her death, despite a recurrence of cancer, she was still
leading visitors on tours of the garden.
"Kay was a lifelong learner about
plants and nature," White says. "She was a joyful,
sparkling, warm person, she devoted herself to others, and she
delighted in plants up to the very end. She and Olin (her late
husband) both gave important volunteer service to the garden during
their lifetimes. This bequest, which they planned together, is their
ultimate gift to North Carolinians and others who love gardens and
seek knowledge about plants and nature."
In 1992, the North Carolina Botanical
Garden produced a master plan for development, which called for both a
visitor education center and a herbarium building but left open the
question of their funding. The Mouzon bequest will meet about half of
the visitor education center construction cost, and the plan is to
finish funding the building with private gifts and grants. Recent
major commitments by Else R. Couch, the Chapel Hill Garden Club,
William Garwood, Alan and Marguerite MacIntyre, Bob and Betty Rugh and
the Reeves Foundation bring the total of private gifts, grants and
pledges to $3 million. Fund-raising will continue toward the $5
million goal, says Charlotte Jones-Roe, NCBG’s assistant director
for development, and the garden is hiring a team of architects.
"Our garden is about North
Carolina," says Peter White, "and the visitor education
building will interpret the wonderful diversity of plants in North
Carolina and their value in our lives."
White says the building also will
welcome North Carolinians to UNC-CH. The N.C. Botanical Garden is one
of the University’s major public outreach centers, along with the
Morehead Planetarium, the Ackland Art Museum and WUNC radio. The
building, White says, should make all feel welcome — volunteers,
horticultural therapy clients, garden clubs from around the state,
public school teachers and their classes, Carolina students, workshop
participants, visiting scientists and drop-in visitors — and it
should invite them to enter the gardens and nature trails surrounding
Conservation is a crucial part of the
NCBG’s mission, so the visitor center is planned to be a
"green" building that demonstrates sustainable development
— in line, White says, with Gov. Jim Hunt’s 1998 call for state
agencies to lead the way in sustainable use of resources. Green in
this case means a building carefully sited to minimize tree cutting
and designed to reduce rainwater runoff to zero, incorporate recycled
and recyclable building materials, and use renewable energy sources.
(One possibility is geothermal heating and cooling via a closed system
of underground water pipes.) The building also is likely to contain
some traditional North Carolina design elements such as porches and
generous roof overhangs.
Katherine Bradley was born in 1917 and
grew up a rather sheltered only child in Forest City in Rutherford
County, says Jones-Roe. But Kay Bradley blossomed intellectually and
socially at Greensboro College, where she joined the orchestra, the
choir and the science and hiking clubs. She met her future husband,
Olin T. Mouzon, at Lake Junaluska, where she was taking a summer
course offered by Duke University. They married in 1939. Almost 10
years later she earned a second bachelor’s degree, in library
science, from Carolina.
Olin Mouzon Ph.D. ’40 joined the UNC-CH
faculty in economics and commerce in 1939 and spent his entire
academic career at Carolina except for four years in the War
Department in Washington, D.C. during World War II. He wrote three
books, was a good teacher, and took an active part in the Chapel Hill
community. He served the Botanical Garden’s administrative board as
treasurer and helped put the garden on a sound financial footing in
its early years. Olin Mouzon died in 1983.
Kay Mouzon, like her husband, poured
her considerable energy and intelligence into volunteer work at the
garden and elsewhere. For a quarter of a century she led visitors on
garden tours. She also volunteered in the UNC Herbarium, a reference
collection of dried plant specimens that is analogous to a library
(and which eventually will be housed at the N.C. Botanical Garden);
there she mounted and sorted specimens and put the reprint collection
Kay Mouzon also gave generously to the
herbarium and NCBG. She established the Friends of the Herbarium
donors’ organization and in her will left $25,000 for an endowment
to support research and publications by students, staff and faculty
who use herbarium materials. She gave the garden $15,000 to purchase
dissecting microscopes and a teaching microscope with video monitor
for use in the plant families classes she so enjoyed taking — and
which were taught by the herbarium curator Jim Massey. (She also left
$100,000 to establish an endowment to provide need-based scholarships
for undergraduates — the Olin T. and Katherine B. Mouzon Memorial
Fund — in the College of Arts and Sciences.)
Kay Mouzon approached learning about
wildflowers with a rigor most people lack, says Charlotte Jones-Roe.
"Precise" is a word several people use to describe her mind.
Peter White took advantage of her exceptionally careful proofreading
and editing skills. White says she delighted in finding misplaced
whiches and thats in the manuscript of his Smoky Mountain wildflower
guide. When Jim Massey visited Kay in the last week of her life,
together they carefully keyed out the plant families represented in a
large bouquet of flowers in her room. He captured her drive to enjoy
and identify plants in a poem, "Remembering Kay," with these
chuckles along the bear trail in the Smokies
we wondered which path to take
not disturb the mother and her cub!
where we so wanted to know what that fern was.
Ken Moore, the garden’s assistant
director for collections, programs and operations, wrote a vivid
tribute to Kay Mouzon’s memory in the NCBG Newsletter (May-June
1998). He recalled Kay as one of the very first participants in
wildflower walks at the garden and described her curiosity about all
she saw. He ended,
Once in a while during our life experience, we are touched by
individuals who pass among us so quietly and yet so memorably that we
are hardly aware of how blessed we are. For me, I always will be
particularly aware of Kay as I notice the dozens of species of
goldenrod flowering on our roadsides from midsummer through early
winter. For others, she will be remembered especially with the sight
or song of a bird, a rendering of a piece of classical music, the
viewing of herbarium specimens, or simply remembering that Kay
demonstrated how fully one can experience and share this life on earth
and then gracefully move on. How fortunate for us that Kay was for so
long a real part of the Garden family and that her reverence for life
continues to accompany us along our garden paths.
— Ginger Travis ’78
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