by Sarah Leach Smith
It’s all still so clear in my mind: getting the invitation to interview period, practicing my 5-minute presentation every day for a month, and the excitement and fear when coming face-to-face with the other candidates. I remember Kevin’s cool plant website, Sara’s compelling herbarium presentation, Felicia’s beautiful photos from Gardens by the Bay, Gary’s charming accent and enthusiasm for conservation, and Bryan’s passion for education. When my parents asked how it went as they picked me up from the airport, the only thing that popped into my head was, “The other candidates were really really good…”
I still have the voicemail saved on my phone. Yes, it went to voicemail… I sat by the phone all day and chided my husband whenever he called to check in. “I thought you would be Dr. Lyons! Stop calling!” Of course, when Dr. Lyons actually did call, I missed it. I actually think it was a blessing though; I was such a mess of excitement and happiness, I think I needed a little time to get myself together. I called Dr. Lyons back, accepted the Fellowship, and the rest is history.
I could never have imagined that I would learn as much as I have, have the experiences that I had, travel to the places I went, or make such fulfilling and quality relationships with my classmates. Together, we helped Tyler Arboretum move forward with the preservation and interpretation of their Painter Plant Collection, worked with Wyck Historic House, Garden, and Farm to redesign their garden borders, interpret their historic rose garden, and implement a plant database. We traveled all over New Zealand, visiting gardens, learning Kiwi slang, and tasting lamb, L&P, Speight’s beer, and hokey pokey ice cream. We experienced Northern California and all that it had to offer, including Mendocino Coast Botanic Garden, Muir Woods, Filoli, and Monterey Bay Aquarium, stopping briefly for an olive oil and vinegar taste test in a local shop. We took Museum Studies classes with the lovable Kasey Grier and learned about Plant Collections with Dr. Frett. We were embraced by Longwood Gardens and invited to board meetings and visiting committee presentations to learn and experience as much as possible.
With graduation officially behind us, it’s hard to believe that it’s all over. I know that the our time in the Longwood Graduate Program is something that we will all carry with us, no matter where we go. I am so proud to be associated with my classmates and look forward to what the future has in store for each one of us. Congratulations, class of 2015! We did it!