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During a reception at Norfolk Botanical Garden's Rose Garden Hall Oct. 4, Old Dominion University and the Botanical Garden will announce the creation of the J. Robert Stiffler Chair of Horticulture and Botany, honoring Virginian-Pilot gardening columnist Robert Stiffler.

The chair was made possible by a $1 million anonymous gift and marks the beginning of collaborative efforts between ODU and the Norfolk Botanical Garden to pursue activities in teaching and research related to botanical scholarship and practical horticultural applications in the Mid-Atlantic region.

"The establishment of the J. Robert Stiffler Chair is a significant step toward ODU becoming recognized as a national leader in biological sciences and particularly in horticulture and botany," said Richard Gregory, dean of the College of Sciences.

A national search for the new chair is underway and a candidate will be chosen by fall 2004. "Ideally we're looking for someone who works on plants of interest to regional gardeners," said Lytton Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan professor of botany and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at ODU. "This will be the Garden's first research position and it is an exciting step forward."

Don Buma, executive director of Norfolk Botanical Garden added, "This chair allows the Garden to fulfill the research component of our mission, which we have not been able to accomplish until now. We all feel fortunate to have the opportunity for top-notch research to be conducted at our Garden."

The Stiffler Chair will be a tenure track position. The professor chosen will have office space at ODU and a greenhouse and research space at the Botanical Garden. The chair will teach classes, supervise graduate students and conduct research.

The author of "Gardening in Southeastern Virginia & Northeastern North Carolina: The Best of 20 Years of Gardening Advice," Stiffler grew up in Iowa where he began gardening with his mother and grandmother at the age of 5. He earned a degree in English and worked in marketing and advertising and in the agricultural and horticultural products industry. The Navy called him to Virginia Beach, where he began writing gardening news for The Virginian-Pilot in 1975. He has worked at The Pilot ever since.

This article was posted on: September 30, 2003

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