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Janice Becker Named Volunteer of the Year

Julie McCaffrey

(847) 835-8213, direct

Release Date: 
Monday, June 24, 2013

GLENCOE, Ill. (June 24, 2013) – Janice Becker of Deerfield was named the 2012 Chicago Botanic Garden Volunteer of the Year at a recent awards reception. The Garden initiated the award in 1984 to focus attention on the outstanding support given to the Garden each year by all volunteers and to recognize one volunteer who exemplifies extraordinary service.

Becker began volunteering at the Garden in 1998 as part of the Master Gardener course service requirement, and describes the enjoyment she found in her volunteer work as “serendipitous.” She has since contributed more than 3,500 service hours.

Says Becker, “I don’t think of volunteering as work. It’s just part of who I am. I fell in love with gardening because it’s always about looking ahead—not dwelling on what was beautiful last year, but what can be even more beautiful in the coming season. (Working at the Garden) is my passion and I’m happy to do it.”

 Becker is known for her love of research, enthusiasm, diligence, attention to detail, and keen observations. Some of her most notable work has been for the Plant Evaluation Garden, including her crucial role in the English shrub rose trials, for which she collected extensive data on more than 80 rose cultivars and produced meticulous trial reports. Becker has also dedicated numerous hours to the Garden’s Continuing Education program and Woman’s Board plant sales.

 Presenting the award was Jim Leider, board member of the Chicago Horticultural Society, which oversees the Chicago Botanic Garden. Leider quoted tributes from Becker’s colleagues. One said, “With her enthusiasm and dedication, we consider Janice an ambassador for the Plant Evaluation Program and for the Garden.” Another said, “Janice serves as a constant reminder to me of the joy and excitement of plants.”

Says Becker of the award, “I would like to thank my husband (Dave Shaw) for his support, and my mentors, friends, and colleagues…I wouldn’t be the plant geek I am without them.”

Also recognized was Bill Bishoff, who received the Barbara Whitney Carr Excellence in Leadership Award. Judy Cashen, director of volunteer services, presented this award for his enthusiasm and expertise as a Garden photographer. The award was created in 2007 as a tribute to the retiring CEO Barbara Whitney Carr, and recognizes excellence in leadership and innovation.

Bishoff is a retired science teacher and lives in Wilmette with his wife, Leda. He began volunteering in 2007. Since then, he has been providing the Garden with beautiful photographs from every vantage point at every time of day, as well as documenting events and sharing his expertise with others. Bishoff also leads the immensely popular monthly photo walks, during which he provides expert photography instruction that has been instrumental to the program’s growth. Dedicated to keeping up with current technological advances, Bishoff is constantly adapting his skill with the development of new photo-editing techniques and helping others learn as well. An avid traveler, Bishoff was unable to accept his award in person, as he was on a trip to the Arctic. With 3,700 hours of service, Bishoff is recognized for his generosity and tireless commitment to his art. 

Hazel Leung was awarded the Five Star Customer Service Award for her work as editorial assistant in the Lenhardt Library. This award, initiated in 2012, recognizes volunteers who consistently go above and beyond to provide excellent customer service to Garden visitors. Leung’s courteousness and eagerness to provide assistance were recognized as hallmarks of what make the Chicago Botanic Garden a world-class destination.

In addition, Phyllis Levin was selected as the Garden’s Super Senior. Levin began volunteering in 2008 and has dedicated more than 1,500 hours to the Garden. She supports the Volunteer Services department and maintains databases, fields phone and e-mail inquiries (she has returned hundreds of phone calls and countless e-mails for the department over the past four years), and assists with other office-related projects. Levin’s precise and thorough work has been an invaluable resource to the Garden’s Volunteer Services department. 

Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director, thanked the volunteers for supporting and working in the Garden, which is one of the treasures of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Jarantoski said that the results of the volunteer efforts are everywhere—from how the Garden looks, to how visitors are treated, to how programs are received by the public—and that it could not be done without their “hard work, words of encouragement, wise counsel, and enthusiasm.” Jarantoski also said that the volunteer team at the Garden made work “much more interesting and enjoyable every day.”

All volunteers were recognized for their support, including those who have volunteered at the Garden for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years. Each volunteer received the Chicagoland Grows®Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ perennial presented by Dr. Jim Ault, director of ornamental plant research. As part of the award reception’s annual tradition, volunteer Richard Baer read a humorous poem that he created about Garden events.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has more than 1,300 volunteers who contribute their time and talents to the Garden. In 2012, these dedicated individuals broke volunteer service records, giving more than 112,000 hours of support to the Garden. For information on volunteer opportunities at the Chicago Botanic Garden, call (847) 835-8392, or visit the Garden’s website at


Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Jasmine Leonas at (847) 835-6829 or at

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