The Jim Wilson and Ray Rothenberger Master Gardener Endowment

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Brent Mc Cauley, Development Officer, 573-884-8732

Catherine “Cat” Comley, Director of Development, 573-882-2003


Published: March 14, 2006

Story Source:  Mary Kroening, (573) 882-9633

Permanent endowment fund created to fund Missouri Master Gardener programs

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A Missouri Master Gardener endowment fund, administered by the University of Missouri Extension, has been created in honor of a retired MU professor and a longtime Master Gardener.

The Ray Rothenberger and Jim Wilson Missouri Master Gardener Endowment was launched March 3 at a lunch honoring the two men in Columbia. The permanent endowment was created to fund the almost entirely volunteer statewide program that trains gardeners to become experts and volunteers in their communities.

Rothenberger retired in 1998 as chair of the MU horticulture department and served for 30 years as a home horticulture specialist. He was a key organizer of the first Missouri Master Gardener program in 1984 and helped lead it for many years.

“It’s an honor and a pleasure to do whatever I can to support and help (Master Gardeners),” Rothenberger said.

Wilson served as a co-host of PBS’s Victory Garden program from Callaway Gardens for 10 years. He holds the title of honorary Master Gardener in nine states, including Missouri.

“This is great. I see huge potential for it (the endowment). The Master Gardener program is so worthwhile,” Wilson said. “It makes me feel very good as an MU grad and a Master Gardener to see this come together.”

Charles Stowell, a Missouri Master Gardener state advisory board member, proposed creating the fund to give donors a place to invest their money that would directly benefit the Master Gardener program. Stowell, of Blue Springs, Mo., said he learned about the value of endowments through his work as a Shriner.

“We’re always struggling for money here,” Stowell said. “What I’m thinking about is not this year or next year. I’m looking at this Master Gardener program 10 years down the road.”

The fund can accommodate big and small donations alike, said Mary Kroening, MU Extension associate and state coordinator for the Missouri Master Gardener program. She said the annual operating budget of about $15,000 comes from training fees paid by the volunteers. The endowment will help fund more advanced volunteer training.

Money also will go toward educational workshops and the state Master Gardener conference. About $3,500 has been committed so far, mostly from regional Master Gardener programs.

Dave Baker, MU assistant dean of agriculture, said he envisions the fund growing into a major endowment.

“We ought to be thinking outside the box, of funding things like college scholarships for horticulture students,” Baker said.

To donate to the Ray Rothenberger and Jim Wilson Missouri Master Gardener Endowment, contact Kroening at (573) 882-9633.

More than 2,500 Master Gardeners serve as trained volunteers for MU Extension by providing research-based gardening advice to friends, neighbors and the community at large throughout the state.

For more information on the MU Extension Master Gardener Program, log on to


The Ray Rothenberger & Jim Wilson Missouri Master Gardener Endowment has been established by the Friends of the Master Gardener Program in honor of two men who have left their mark on the Missouri Master Gardener program.

Ray Rothenberger was the chair of horticulture at the University of Missouri and home horticulture specialist for 30 years. He was most noted for his popular garden column ‘The Garden Spot’ which was the most widely published article from a faculty member at MU. He was also an author and
editor for the popular ‘Flower and Garden Magazine’, and has also assisted in editing numerous garden books through the years. Ray was key in facilitating the first Master Gardener program in Missouri in 1984, and offered leadership for the program for many years.

Jim Wilson served as co-host of PBS’s Victory Garden program which he anchored from Callaway Gardens for 10 years. After the Victory Garden, he continued to host specials for another three years on HGTV. Today, Jim still does appearances for producers of high-quality garden products and speaks in support of Master Gardening programs across the country. A certified South Carolina Master Gardener, Jim is an Honorary Master Gardener in 8 additional states. (It is worth noting that Missouri holds the distinction of being the first state to bestow that honorary title to Jim.)

The endowment will help support the Missouri Master Gardener program by providing funds for:

• educational workshops
• advanced training
• the statewide conference
• programmatic needs
• travel expenses