Bur Oak Society - 2019 Inductees

The following individuals were inducted into the Bur Oak Society on March 21, 2019. The Bur Oak Society was established by Friends of The Arboretum in 2003 to honor individuals who, through their professional expertise, have made significant and continuous contributions to The Arboretum.

Jerry Goerz has been running model trains in the Kentucky Children’s Garden since 2015. A retired electrical engineer who worked at Kentucky Utilities for 21 years and East Kentucky Power for 12 years, he also taught courses at ITT Technical Institute. He started early and enjoyed model trains as a kid and has been in the Bluegrass Railroad Club for 47 years. He modestly states that his “main contribution to The Arboretum was figuring out how to quickly clean the model train tracks and wheels every morning to reliably start the trains.” And to the end, he credits his fellow Bluegrass Railroad Club member Norm Severin with inventing a very effective track-cleaning car and making two of them for The Arboretum.

Rob Paratley is from New York State, where he went to college and grad school. A botanist, he has been at the University of Kentucky for 23 years and is curator of the UK Herbarium. As a teacher of plant courses for Natural Resources and Forestry students, he has shared his knowledge in Plant Systematics, Economic Botany, Dendrology, and Winter Dendrology and conducted a summer study abroad course in Costa Rica.

For many years, Rob has used The Arboretum’s native plant collection to educate his classes on Kentucky’s trees. He has been a member of The Arboretum’s Advisory Board for several years, offered public programs at The Arboretum, and collaborated with Arboretum staff in a number of projects. He hopes for more of these same interactions in the future.

Miriam Woolfolk, age 93 and a native of Louisville, has lived in Lexington since 1951. She is an award-winning artist and poet and the mother of four children (one of whom, Sally Horowitz, currently serves on the Friends board and regularly volunteers at The Arboretum). Miriam’s late husband, Patch Woolfolk, was a professor and associate chair of the Department of Animal & Food Sciences at UK. Miriam has served as a president of the Lexington Art League and president of the Kentucky State Poetry Society and was editor of its journal, Pegasus, for 21 years. A lifetime member of Friends of The Arboretum, Miriam was a willing Friends volunteer for a number of years, primarily as a greeter and volunteer receptionist in the Visitor’s Center and keeper of statistics on visitor records. She has also been a generous donor and supporter of The Arboretum.

Robert and Ruth Straus have been fixtures of the Lexington community since the 1950s. Educated at Yale and Vassar, the Strauses’ move to our city was made to tap his talent during the startup of the University of Kentucky Medical Center. A long and distinguished career followed, and today the University of Kentucky has The Robert Straus Behavioral Science Research Building. And he likes model railroads!

Ruth taught math at Lafayette High School, is well remembered by her students, has a long list of accomplishments due to her work with community organizations, and along the way was active in raising four children. Being a neighbor of Marcia Farris, the Strauses knew all about The Arboretum, participated in its development, were honorary chairs of its 2013 Gala in the Garden, and to this day continue their enthusiastic support.

Richard Weber has been a supporter of The Arboretum and the Friends since the founding of his business, Springhouse Gardens, in 1995. As part of the Friends Education Committee for many years, he helped choose and welcome world-class speakers to Kentucky including Stephanie Cohen, Ken Druse, and Dan Heims and served on the Friends board as well as on several Friends committees. He regularly promoted The Arboretum and its events on his weekly radio show and was designer of the Pollinator Garden in the Kentucky Children’s Garden.

His Springhouse Gardens has long been a supporter and participant in Arboretum programs and events including Arbor Day, Gala in the Garden, and the Member Discount Program. Richard has also spoken to and conducted many Friends lectures and workshops, sharing his love for plants and gardening.

Sibu and Becky Saha and their family moved to Lexington in Fall 1976. A friend introduced them to “a place on Alumni Drive near the football stadium” where Becky walked with her dogs, becoming very familiar with this special place and its almost 100 acres, watching it “bloom and grow.”

One day they were approached by Ginny Long, past president of Friends, who shared: The Friends of the Arboretum were having a campaign to raise funds for a visitor center and could they contribute? They did, and the rest is history!

Sibu was busy building a heart program at Central Baptist Hospital and helped when he could. Becky began to volunteer with the many Friends programs. She enjoyed promoting The Arboretum with brochures, Friends newsletters, and display boards; served on committees of the Friends board; regularly fed The Arboretum staff delicious snacks; and worked very closely with, in Becky’s words, “Marcia and Dorotha: the twin powerful forces behind this labor of love.” Their affection for The Arboretum’s 100 acres is obvious, and their contribution is exceptional.