History of the IAS

by Bette Waterbury [Aroideana 6(4): 137-138. 1983.]

On June 18, 1977 the International Aroid Society began as the American Aroid Society when 17 aroid enthusiasts met at my home, and the first organizational meeting was held on July 25th at South Miami Junior High School. Allan Herndon was temporary chairman and Jack Kearns gave the program on anthuriums. At our second general meeting Gary Antosh was acting chairman and it was decided that we become the International Aroid Society. There was an election of officers and I became the first President, probably because I knew the least about aroids and therefore would work hard getting things rolling. Allan Fernandez was elected Vice-President; John Faust, Treasurer; Shirley Crete, Recording Secretary; and Marilyn Turner, Corresponding Secretary. Peggy Fisher was responsible for obtaining the society logo. By September we had 32 members. Josef Bogner of Munich, West Germany sent nine pamphlets on aroids, the beginning of our library, and, also, a list of persons he thought would be interested in becoming members. These people were contacted and by the end of 1977 we had 73 members.

In March of 1978, our first membership roster was published with 100 members listed. We participated in the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show held at Hialeah Race Track and were proud to be awarded first place in the educational category. In April we held our first plant sale at St. Hugh's Church. In June we had 159 members and Dr. Mike Madison, of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota, Florida, was responsible for editing our first issue of Aroideana. At our July meeting, we celebrated our first birthday. We were really rolling with 206 members from 21 states and 15 foreign countries! Peggy Fisher resigned as editor of the Newsletter and the job fell to me. It was really thrilling the way the memberships and correspondence came rolling in. In September, Gary Antosh conducted the first aroid class at Fairchild Tropical Garden, and in October the society was incorporated. In November, the Florida West Coast Aroid Guild held their first meeting, and in Miami we held our first plant auction, taking in $1,185.00! By the end of the year we boasted 362 members!

In February of 1979, Joan Hackler and I flew to California for one of the first meetings of the California chapter. Dorothy Henkle was our hostess and took us to see private collections and nurseries specializing in aroids from Los Angeles to San Diego. It was a fantastic experience and the beginning of one of my most valued friendships. In April, our society display placed third in the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show, and Joe Wright of Ft. Myers began the Florida Southwest Chapter. In July, we were up to 487 members, but had begun experiencing late dues renewals and a drop in correspondence, and the renewal date for all dues was changed to January. In November, we staged our first Aroid Show and Sale at Fairchild Tropical Garden, and Tricia Frank did a great job as show chairman. All the guests at the show were asked to cast a ballot for the most outstanding plant, and Elaine Spears' A. magnifican 'illustris' was the winner. The horticultural excellence award went to Bob See's A. splendidum.

In 1980 Allan Fernandez became President. The Board of Directors decided the Newsletter should become bi-monthly and it was no longer sent to foreign members. In March, Dr. Mike Madison hosted the Symposium on Araceae at the marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota, Florida, the largest gathering of aroid experts ever held. Present were: Tom Ray, Dr. Tom Croat, Dan Nicolson, James French, P.B. Tomlinson, Derek Burch, Richard Keating, Monroe Birdsey, Simon Mayo from England, Josef Bogner from Germany, Marija Bedalov from Yugoslavia, Marianne Knecht from the Ivory Coast, M. Sivadasan from India, and George Bunting from Venezuela. Simon Mayo also spoke at our regular meeting in Miami. In May, the Society also chalked up another first place trophy at the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show.

Eric Beers was elected President in 1981 and when Mike Madison resigned as editor of Aroideana we were fortunate to have Dr. Monroe Birdsey take over the job. Other highlights of the year were visits by Simon Mayo and David Burnett, from Australia, where our membership had reached 54. We also captured first place at the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show and completed the year with a successful Aroid Show and Sale at Fairchild Tropical Garden in September.

In 1982 I became President again and was happy to turn over the editorship of the Newsletter to Dewey Fisk. In February, David Burnett initiated the Australian Newsletter and began handling the Australian membership. The Society's display again won first place at the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show. Jim Watson, our program chairman, delighted us with many exceptional and varied programs throughout the year.

That brings us up to 1983 with Jerry Bengis as President anad with expectations of a great future. I hope that all of the problems that we have encountered along the way will be overcome, and that the Society will become bigger and better than ever. Let's all pull together!