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Ceremony, Natural History Lecture To Open Kaplan Orchid Conservatory

A ribbon cutting and a lecture by a visiting orchid expert will officially open the Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory at Old Dominion University tonight.

The ceremony will be at 5 p.m. at the conservatory, which is near the three main sciences buildings on campus. Tours will follow the ribbon-cutting.

Kenneth M. Cameron, a world-renowned expert on the systematics and conservation of the orchid family, will give a Natural History Lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building auditorium.

Cameron is director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Herbarium, a museum collection of dried, labeled plants of state, national and international importance, which is used extensively for taxonomic and ecological research, as well as for teaching and public service. Previously he directed the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics Studies at the New York Botanical Garden. He is part of an international group of scientists using gene sequence data to reconstruct the phylogenetic history of the orchid family. The group's goal is to produce a robust and stable system of classification for this diverse family.

Cameron has written about his research for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the PBS television series NOVA.

Those who plan to attend the opening are asked to RSVP by phone at 683-3116 or online at www.odu.edu/ao/univevents.

The new facility features a conservatory for public display of plants and flowers, a growing area and research laboratories. The conservatory was made possible by a $1 million gift and a nearly 1,000-plant collection of orchids. Retired businessman Leonard Kaplan and his wife, Tobee, of Greensboro, N.C., donated the money, and the donor's brother, Dr. Arthur S. Kaplan, a retired Norfolk physician, and his wife, Phyllis, donated the prolific orchid collection and made a monetary contribution for an endowment for the care and maintenance of the greenhouse.

"There are always special spots on campuses where students go at special moments - when their parents come to visit or when they pledge their eternal love," Runte said. "This greenhouse will be one of those places at Old Dominion. We thank the Kaplans for sharing a most wonderful gift with the university and the community as a whole."

The greenhouse and plant collection are a natural extension of the university's botany legacy and recent endeavors, according to Lytton Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.

He noted that one of the first courses offered at Old Dominion in 1930 was botany, and the university in more recent years has opened the Blackwater Ecologic Preserve, created two endowed chairs in botany and established a partnership with the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

This article was posted on: April 2, 2008

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