CTAHR alumnus and local environmental leader Charles R. “Chipper” Wichman, the president, director, and CEO of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, has been awarded the Garden Club of America’s (GCA) 2018 Medal of Honor. The medal is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the world through their work in horticulture and botany—the 2016 awardee was Diane Ragone, director of NTBG’s Breadfruit Institute and CTAHR’s 2016 Outstanding Alumna. Chipper, who earned a degree in Horticulture in 1983 from CTAHR, has contributed to the discovery or rediscovery of over a dozen previously unknown species endemic to remote parts of Kaua‘i.
This dedicated fieldworker even rappelled down the Na Pali cliffs on a rope to hand-pollinate and then collect the seed of certain plants now thought to be extinct in the wild but which have been successfully cultivated at NTBG. Previously, as director of Kaua‘i’s Limahuli Gardens, he helped to restore ancient taro terraces, replaced invasive species with endemic and indigenous ones, and supported conservation and education. Among Chipper’s many previous awards are the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance in 2013 for his demonstration of exceptional leadership in advancing environmental conservation in Hawai‘i and the Kako‘o ‘Aina Award from the Hawai‘i Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in 2016.
Chipper’s nominator for the Medal of Honor, Garden Club of Honolulu president Jann Boxold, described Chipper as a “global leader in conservation and horticulture who has dedicated his life to the discovery and conservation of tropical plants and the protection of their habitats.” Peter Raven, president emeritus of Missouri Botanical, said, “For the appreciation of Hawaiian culture, the conservation, and enjoyment of the island’s spectacular native plants, Chipper has few peers. He has made a magnificent and unique contribution.”