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Wally Berg Award of Excellence

Wally and Dorothy Berg


The concept of the Wally Berg Award of Excellence was formulated in 1999 to honor the late Wally Berg (1927-2000) of Sarasota, Florida. Wally and his wife Dorothy were extraordinary bromeliad growers, frequently winning top Awards and Best in Show at World Bromeliad Conferences and Florida local/regional bromeliad shows, providing display specimens also. Their private diverse collection was one of the finest in the world, with many unusual and rare species consistently grown to near perfection and set in magnificent, immaculate gardens and greenhouses which were often open to visitors. Wally was an enthusiastic supporter of the BSI, with many rare plants donated for sales and auction, benefiting the Bromeliad Identification Centre at Selby Gardens, the "Evil Weevil" research and other worthy causes. He also volunteered countless hours service at Selby Gardens. Wally was a frequent guest speaker on a variety of topics at many affiliate meetings, capturing his audience also with stories and photos of his many collecting trips and the new discoveries he introduced into horticulture, such as Aechmea 'Ilha Grande', 'La Tigra', 'Sangria' and 'Yapi'. Such bromeliad-hunting expeditions to Colombia, Panama, Brazil, El Salvador and Belize, to name a few, were often taken in tandem with other growers, nurserymen and botanists. Wally had joined both the BSI and Sarasota Bromeliad Society in 1982. Positions held with S.B.S. were President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Co-Chairman of several local bromeliad shows and member society representative for the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies. Wally was also bestowed Honorary (Life) Membership by the Sarasota Bromeliad Society. Photography and occasional bromeliad hybridizing were other involved activities which he passionately pursued. Registered Berg-bred hybrids include Aechmea 'Wally's Wand', 'Pink Candela', Billbergia 'Esther', Neoregelia 'Austin's Cool Orange', 'Big Mac Special', 'Brian's Beauty' and 'Devin's Delight'. Wally had a broad knowledge about bromeliad ecology, taxonomy, evolution, cultivation and exhibition. His friendly, generous nature in sharing that knowledge and giving of himself for the benefit of other people interested in bromeliads and for bromeliad organizations at all levels earned him international respect.

Wally's high esteem was reflected in a number of bromeliads being named after him: the natural hybrid Tillandsia x bergiana Takizawa & Koide, Pitcairnia bergii Luther, Guzmania bergii Luther, Neoregelia 'Wally Berg' (hybridist Odean Head) and the Berg wild-collected form of Aechmea blanchetiana, named 'Wally Berg' by John Anderson. Some of Wally and Dorothy Berg's achievements and adventures are featured on the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies' website: http://fcbs.org/ under Photo Index--Programs--see Berg Cage and Bromeliads in Habitat, both photographic presentations linked to eulogies and a memory page in honor of Wally, who set an inspiring example for us all.

Award Criteria

BSI President Tom Wolfe initiated the idea and title "Wally Berg Award of Excellence" in 1999 as a permanent trophy in response to a number of BSI members who thought Wally Berg's achievements should be formally recognized. The BSI Board of Directors at their May, 2000 Annual Board Meeting appointed Dr. Theresa Bert to head an ad hoc committee established to define the criteria to be used in selecting potential recipients of the Award. Dan Kinnard, Jack Reilly and Hattie Lou Smith were the other ad hoc committee members, who felt the Award should reflect Wally's contributions to the bromeliad world and to the BSI. The Award is to be presented every two years at the World Bromeliad Conferences to the individual or couple selected by the BSI Board of Directors as most closely meeting the criteria. The Committee also clearly recognized that many well-qualified individuals or couples may not meet all of the listed criteria and therefore requested that each nominee should meet at least four of the seven criteria which were approved by the Board of Directors at its May, 2001 annual meeting. These inaugural criteria, printed in the BSI Journal Nov.-Dec. 2001, pp. 272-274 remain largely intact. Revised eligibility rules for nominees and nominators were passed by the Board of Directors in May 2005. Dr. Theresa Bert was appointed Curator of the Award in May, 2002, which position announces the call for nominations in the BSI Journal in each year preceding the Award presentation.

  1. The individual should be a bromeliad grower who is nationally or internationally recognized for diversity of species cultivated and excellence of cultivation.
  2. The individual should actively pursue one of the following activities:
    1. collecting and identifying bromeliads in natural environments, including collecting new species/varieties/cultivars; the members of the various bromeliad societies and organizations, including the BSI and the BIC, should benefit from this activity;
    2. promoting the appreciation and cultivation of bromeliads at the international level, including such activities as organizing and participating in collecting trips with international representation, giving presentations and seminars to national and international audiences, and writing manuscripts for publication in national or international books, journals, or other media (e.g. Internet, CD ROMS).
  3. The individual should actively support efforts to further the scientific, taxonomic, or cultural understanding of bromeliads through donation of time, effort, or money to recognized organizations (e.g., the BSI), institutions (e.g., the BIC, or Selby Gardens), or groups of individuals (e.g., bromeliad clubs, statewide or regional bromeliad councils).
  4. The individual should be active in a local, regional, or national bromeliad society and be recognized by other members of that society for his/her contributions to the functioning of that society and its activities. The individual should also be a member in good standing of the BSI.
  5. If the individual is a bromeliad hybridizer, he/she should be internationally recognized for excellence in one or more of the following categories:
    1. innovation in creating bromeliad hybrids,
    2. success in cultivation of bromeliad hybrids,
    3. promotion and distribution of bromeliad hybrids.
  6. The individual should be generally recognized as an expert in one or more of the following aspects of bromeliads:
    1. ecology, evolution, or taxonomy,
    2. cultivation or hybridization,
    3. display or exhibition.
  7. The individual should be generally recognized for his/her generous nature in sharing his/her knowledge of bromeliads and for giving of himself/herself for the benefit of other people interested in bromeliads and for bromeliad organizations at all levels.

Procedure for Nomination and Winner Selection

The Committee has created the following procedure for nominating individuals for the Wally Berg Award and for selecting the winner of the award.

  1. Nominees must be past or present members of the BSI. Individuals, partners or deceased members within the past two years, are eligible. Nominators must be current members of the BSI. The deadline for submitting nominations will be published in advance in the Journal of the BSI. The nominator should submit the nomination in writing, by either letter or email message. The nominator should provide a brief resume of the accomplishments of the nominee in bromeliad-related activities (e.g., service, offices held, major awards won) and a letter describing the way in which the nominee meets at least four of the seven criteria listed above. Nominations should be submitted to either the Secretary of the BSI or to an individual appointed by the Officers of the BSI. For this specific task, the individual will be designated as the Curator of the Wally Berg Award.
  2. Within two weeks after the deadline for submission of nominations, the Curator will provide the list of nominees and their nomination packages to the BSI Board of Directors (henceforth, the Board). The Board members will acknowledge to the Curator receipt of the nomination packages and will have four weeks from the posting date to notify the Curator of their choice for the winner of the award. The Curator reserves the right to accept or reject votes that are sent after the four-week voting period. If the Curator rejects late votes, he/she should inform the BSI Officers of the reason for the rejection. The voting may have two rounds; the first round will be to select a few (e.g., 3-5) top candidates from among the nominees, the second round will be to select the winner of the award.
  3. The Curator will announce the winner to the Board within one week after the voting period has ended and will be published in the Journal of the BSI. The winner or his/her representative will receive the award at the next BSI World Conference.
  4. Any previous, non-winning nominees will automatically be included in the current list of nominees as long as they meet the current rules as specified in the nomination procedures. Previous Award winners are ineligible for re-nomination. Since it takes time and effort to compose the resume for submission for this award and since only one winner is chosen every 2 years, this will preserve the effort invested in making the nominations. The option will be given to the nominator to update the resume if deemed necessary during each nomination period.

Both the distribution of the nomination packages and the voting process will be significantly expedited through the use of email. Therefore, the Committee strongly recommends that all of the above components of the nomination and election process for the Award be executed via email.

Inaugural Wally Berg Award 2000

The BSI Journal Jan/Feb, 2000 issue (page 39) announced the new Wally Berg Award of Excellence. Wally Berg died on 26th. March, 2000. At that stage no Award Criteria had been decided upon and the BSI Board considered that a fitting tribute at the imminent World Bromeliad Conference in San Francisco would be to present the first Award to Wally posthumously and also to Dorothy Berg for her team support in Wally's achievements.

Dorothy Berg accepting the first award on behalf of Wally

Wally Berg Award 2002

Nominees for the 2002 Wally Berg Award of Excellence included some of the top names in the bromeliad world: John Anderson, Don Beadle, Dennis Cathcart, Nat DeLeon, Harry Luther, and Sam & Hattie Lou Smith. All nominiees easily met the criteria for the award but it was Dennis Cathcart who was chosen as the 2002 winner of the award.

Dennis Cathcart accepting the 2002 Wally Berg Award

Wally Berg Award 2004

Nominees for the 2004 Wally Berg Award of Excellence added some new and very worthy names to the list: John Anderson, Grace Goode, Herb Plever, Sam & Hattie Lou Smith, and Tom Wolfe. This year it was Wally's good friend and companion from many collecting trips, John Anderson who was selected as the award recipient.

Wally Berg Award 2004 Recipient John Anderson (accepted by Nelwyn Anderson)

Wally Berg Award 2008

Grace Good was presented with the Wally Berg Award of Excellence at the 2008 World Confernce.

BSI Journal References

Notes Researcher: Geoff Lawn, BSI Australian Director 2003-5

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