‘The Friends’ – Their Birth, Their Purpose, Their History

Their Birth

The `Friends of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden’ was formed as a non-profit organization, which was incorporated June 15, 1971 to advise on the operation, publicity and development plans for the Garden.

The first meeting of the `Friends’ took place on Saturday, 30th October 1971 at 2.00 p.m. in the then Botany Department with about 35 members in attendance. Parking cost $0.50 in Windsor Car Park. Prior to this inaugural meeting 105 charter members had joined the new Society.

The meeting opened with an address of welcome by the Director of the Garden, Dr. Paul R. Gorham. He introduced the ‘founding fathers’ of the Garden, Dr.’s Jim Whyte and Harold Brodie as well as the aims and objectives of the Garden. He introduced the Garden staff, the Associate Director Pat Seymour, The Curator Roger Vick and Assistant Curator Gillian Ford. Paul also outlined some of the plans for the Garden and finished his address with the hope that the Garden would become one of the great gardens of the world.

Their Purpose

`The Friends will be seeking members, organizing activities, and raising funds for the promotion of a wider educational use and public appreciation of the scientific and cultural values of the garden by the larger Edmonton community and beyond’.

The ‘Friends’ objectives currently are:

1.3.1 To provide support, and encouragement for the development, enhancement and   sustainability of the University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden.

1.3.2 To promote fund raising and resources for the support of the University of Alberta  Devonian Botanic Garden with the goal of it being a major attraction for tourism,  education, botanical and horticultural research on the Canadian prairies.

1.3.3 To foster knowledge of and interest in understanding and interpreting nature, the science   of botany and the principles and practices of horticulture to the betterment of society.

1.3.4 To increase the scope of the membership in the Friends of the Garden.

 Their History

The first Board of Trustees of the Friends was comprised of:

  • Sandy Dyde as President
  • Mrs. Marion Shipley, Vice-President
  • Paul H. Carpenter, K.A. Robertson, Jim Whyte, Dennis K. Yorath, Trustees
  • Philip Hastings, Edgar W. Toop, Dale H. Vitt, Trustees elected by University Departments
  • Paul R. Gorham, Director, 
  • Pat Seymour Secretary/Treasurer, Associate Director

The Presidents of the ‘Friends’ are as follows:

H.A. (Sandy Dyde (1971-1973) Wally Affolder (2001-2003)
Marion A. Shipley (1973-1977) Walter Yarish (2003-2006)
Norman S. MacPherson (1977-1980) Ieuan R. Evans (2006-2008)
Patrick R. Butler (1980-1986) Doug Hornbeck (2008-2010)
W. David Usher (1986-1989) Gail Rankin (2010-2011)
Betty Vladicka (1989-1992) Hideji Ono (2011-2012)
Leslie R. Humphrey (1992-1995) Brenda Harvey (2012-2014)
Virginia Penny (1996-1997) Karen Olivier (2015-2016)
Leslie R. Humphrey (1997-1998) Gwen Holland (2016 – 2020)
Margaret E. Hickman (1998-2001) Janet McLean (2020 – present)


From time to time, legacies and donations have been received, grants applied for by the `Friends’ on behalf of the Garden, and special fund raising projects as well as casinos have been used as methods of acquiring the necessary funds to complete projects. The acquisition of funds began modestly and the assets of the ‘Friends’ for the year ending 31st December 1971 were $1,808.67! However, under Norman MacPherson, an ambitious project was approved by the University Board of Governors in 1978 to fund and build a Japanese Garden as a feature attraction.

Mr. MacPherson also approached the Devonian Group of Charitable Foundations and this led a donation that was matched by the Alberta Department of Advanced Education. These totaled $1,036,000. These funds provided for:

  • the purchase of an additional 110 acres from the heirs of Sandy Dyde
  • phase I of the new Headquarters Building, with one of the two greenhouses opened in 1978
  • reconstruction of the Primula Dell and around the Calla Pond and Grebe Water that had been badly damaged by floods in 1974

The Tropical Butterfly Show House was a gift of Gladys and Merrill Muttart Foundation to the DBG at this same time ($110,000).

The Friend’s Japanese Garden Project and the campaign to raise funds from Japanese and Canadian Corporations and Foundations, was changed to a joint University/Friends Project under Pat Butler and Dave Usher. The approximately $3 million needed to build the Japanese Garden was raised by a series of three committees over 9 years with matching funds from Alberta Advanced Education.

A special campaign in 1991 – 92 solicited $25,000 from donors towards reaching the $900,000 goal for the Kurimoto Japanese Garden Endowment Fund. Funds donated in the 1991, 1992 and 1993 appeals to Members, totaling $25,000 were allocated to the $40,000 northeast extension of the 1973 Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden.

In 1995 the `Friends’ established Corporate and Club Memberships. An outdoor information donor recognition building located at the entrance to the Marion Shipley Garden was constructed.

This year (2013) the Friends created a unique visual identity logo, hired a membership coordinator/bookkeeper, developed a website and used social media to attract more members.

The board’s goal, as philanthropists, is to give of our time, talent or treasures to enable the garden to be the best it can be. It has a strong mandate to encourage volunteerism as a means to involve our members.

Helping the Gardens grow is what we are all about and that is what friends are for.