After serving for nearly 29 years as director of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, Frank Telewski will retire from MSU in October 2021. Alan Prather, director of the MSU Herbarium and associate professor in plant biology, will step into the role of interim director after Telewski’s retirement.
Frank Telewski served at the director of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden for nearly 29 years.
Telewski was hired in 1993 as curator of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and assistant professor of botany and plant pathology, He also served as director of the campus arboretum, professor in the Department of Plant Biology, and as the consulting curator for MSU’s Hidden Lake Gardens.
“During his time at MSU, Dr. Telewski has maintained our historic plants and collections, created true outdoor classroom spaces, and made substantial increases to the diversity of our plant holdings,” said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “One of the most important gifts that he leaves MSU is a strong endowment program that projects this work forward, as surely as the Beal bottles hidden beneath our MSU feet continue the legacy of his antecedent, Dr. Beal. We are grateful for Frank’s enduring contributions that will persist for years to come.”
Under Telewski’s leadership, the Beal Botanical Garden collection has grown, including new collections of non-flowering vascular plants and specimens from Asia. Telewski initiated and supervised the enhancement of the scientific mission of Beal Botanical Garden through a program of inventorying, evaluating, and mapping all campus trees, and deploying interpretive placards throughout the garden. He spearheaded a novel tree repurposing program, MSU Shadows, that repurposes campus trees into handmade products – and received the "MSU Be Spartan Green Outstanding Faculty Member Award" for his efforts on behalf of the program. He also has increased public awareness of Beal Botanical Garden by establishing a volunteer program and by collaborating to bring people into the garden through initiatives such as the popular Music in the Garden series, with the College of Music.
Telewski also has enjoyed a successful career as an educator, research scientist, and forensic botanist. He has led the Beal Seed Experiment since 2000. In 2012 he was recognized for his mentorship of graduate students by the Graduate Academic Advisor Award in the College of Natural Science.
Incoming interim director Alan Prather will continue Telewski’s strong history of leadership. Since 1997 Prather has directed one of W.J. Beal’s other major campus collections, the MSU Herbarium. A specialist in plant systematics, especially the evolution of plant morphology in relation to pollination systems and whole genome, Prather has published extensively on the role of collections in research, especially on their significance to the scientific understanding of biodiversity.
Alan Prather will serve as interim director of Beal Botanical Garden.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Prather to this interim director role,” said Woodruff. “He plans to bring particular attention to promoting active and inquiry-based learning in Beal Botanical Garden, strengthening ties with other campus collections, expanding the garden’s web and social media presence, and exploring plans for an outdoor classroom. His curation of our world-class collections and the many goals he has set for the garden are part of our stewardship and sustainability goals described in the MSU's Strategic Plan.”
Prather has organized many workshops and symposia focused on creating regional networks of collections, the novel use of natural history collections in research, promoting active and inquiry-based education using specimens, and many other topics. With his collaborators, he also has developed learning modules for teaching and outreach using herbarium specimens and tested these in the classroom and botanical gardens.
“Alan’s commitment to research and teaching are exemplified by his long-term role as graduate program director in plant biology, his integration of student research and internships in the Herbarium, and his deep understanding of the vital role of collections in scientific research make him the ideal leader in this transition,” according to Judith Stoddart, associate provost for University Collections and Arts Initiatives. “He will ensure that Beal Botanical Garden plays a critical role as a campus learning laboratory and an important asset to visitors to our campus.”
Established in 1873 by Professor William James Beal, the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden of its kind in the United States and an important part of the campus educational experience. The Beal Botanical Garden will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2023.