Each year, The Garden Club of America recognizes outstanding achievement in horticulture, botany, conservation, historic preservation, environmental protection, floral design, landscape design and literature. The Akron Garden Club has nominated 10 individuals, organizations and plants receiving GCA national medals.

Achievement Medal

2007 Winner: Christine D. Freitag

In recognition of outstanding achievement and in tribute to creative vision and ability in the interpretation and furtherance of the aims of The Garden Club of America.

Joining Akron Garden Club in 1971 and serving as president of The Garden Club of America from 1993-1995, Christine Freitag was a heartfelt conservationist and environmental activist. She was in the vanguard of the citizens working together to create Cuyahoga Valley National Park and inaugurated The Garden Club of America Partners for Plants project in the park. She established and led Scenic Ohio and founded Friends of Metro Parks, an organization assisting in the preservation of the parks in Summit County.

Francis K. Hutchinson Medal

1988 Winner: U.S. Rep. John F. Seiberling

Awarded to figures of national importance for distinguished service to conservation. While representing the 14 th district of Ohio in the U.S. Congress from 1971-1986, Mr. Seiberling dedicated himself to environmental matters. He was the leading authority on national parks and was a prime sponsor of legislation preserving 129 million acres of public land in national parks and wilderness areas throughout the United States. Locally, his finest accomplishment came in 1974, when he authored legislation to create the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area to preserve the region’s historic and natural heritage. Mr. Seiberling also sponsored the Alaska Wilderness Act and worked tirelessly to ensure its passage. His was perhaps the greatest single conservation achievement of our time, bequeathing to future generations a legacy of parks, refuges and wilderness.

Photo credit: Western Reserve Public Media

Margaret Douglas Medal

1983 Winner: Wendell LaDue

For notable service to the cause of
conservation education

Architect of Akron’s water supply and distribution system, Wendell R. LaDue was a water-supply visionary and dedicated his life to foresighted worldwide education in the conservation and intelligent use of water. Under his direction, land was purchased along the Cuyahoga River for a series of reservoirs to provide additional water supply to Akron, including 6,000 acres in Geauga County, later named the LaDue Reservoir. Much of northern Summit County’s industrial growth was feasible because Akron had water and could share it. He received worldwide acclaim in the fields of water conservation and supply, soil

conservation and forestry.

Image credit: This Day in Water History

Margaret Douglas Medal

2001 Winner: PPG Industries, Inc.

For more than 70 years, PPG Industries, Inc., produced soda ash for the manufacture of plate glass at a plant in Barberton, Ohio. The liquid and solid wastes were pumped into ponds covering more than 600 acres, creating six “lime lakes,” unable to support vegetation. Since 1985, biosolids have been mixed on site with the lime spoil to lower the soil alkalinity so that it supports long-term vegetation growth and wildlife habitat. By 2001, 300 acres were transformed into a model natural wildlife habitat open to passive recreation, and native plants, grasses, wildflowers, trees, shrubs and birds thrive. The reclamation of the remaining acreage is anticipated to be completed in 2016. PPG is the only corporation to have been honored with a Margaret Douglas Medal to date.

Photo credit: Quasar Energy Group

Margaret Douglas Medal

2011 Winner: Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Conservancy is the nonprofit friends group of the national park and received the medal for depth of programming and fundraising, commitment to innovative environmental education and dedication to preserving the natural world for future generations. The award particularly cited the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, which draws more than 10,000 children annually to its innovative year-round school experience programs. The center’s 500-acre campus is home to trails, ponds, forests and meadows, two dormitories, a dining hall, labs, an art room and a library. An award-winning interdisciplinary curriculum incorporates current academic content standards in math, social studies, language arts and technology. Some $137,000 in scholarships is provided annually to needy students.

Photo credit: Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Margaret Douglas Medal

1969 Winner: Ellen Fenlon Tobin

For special achievement in the field of botany, including research, the fine arts and education

This Akron Garden Club member was author of a 1962 Woodland Series of children’s books, The Fairy Church in the Woods, Little Birds in a Nest, Signs of the Fairies  and A Woodland Circus. Writing the stories and taking the photographs, her purpose was “…  helping to save the woods from being cut down so that all the little animals and plants won’t be chased out of their homes. That way your children and grandchildren will have a place where they can go visit them.”   Ms. Tobin received the Luquer Medal for her accomplishments as educator, author and photographer in the field of botany.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Medal of Honor

2008 Winner: Steven M. Still

Awarded for outstanding service to horticulture

Professor of landscape horticulture at Kansas State University and The Ohio State University for more than three decades years, Dr. Still in 1984 founded and continues as executive director of the Perennial Plant Association, which provides continuing horticultural education for the herbaceous industry nationally and internationally. The Ohio-based association connects professionals, provides education and promotes perennial plants among growers, retailers, landscape designers and contractors, educators and other industry professionals. For more than 30 years, the organization has held a large, multi-day Perennial Plan Symposium and sponsors the well-known Perennial Plant of the Year designation to showcase a standout perennial.

Medal of Honor

2014 Winner: Will Raap

Mr. Raap is founder of The Gardener’s Supply Company, among the world’s largest online and catalog gardening retailers. Additionally, through the founding and leadership of several nonprofit entities ranging from Vermont to Costa Rica, he focuses on local food, renewable energy and land restoration enterprises that support a more resilient economy and more sustainable future. He received the Medal of Honor for his life’s work of innovative thinking and integrating business expertise with environmentally sustainable practices restoring the soil and soul of Mother Earth.

Photo credit: Gardener’s Supply Company

Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Award

2005 Honorable Mention: Amelanchier canadensis ‘Glenform,’ Rainbow Pillar

Awarded to a North American native plant worthy of special recognition

Grown as a multi-stem shrub or as a tree, the amelanchier can reach 20 feet. Early-blooming white flowers turn into blueberry-like fruits which attract birds. Fall foliage is a spectacular orange and red. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.

Photo credit: The Garden Club of America

Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Award

2011 Winner:  Abies concolor, White Fir

Awarded for outstanding service to horticulture

A columnar evergreen tree, the White Fir boasts soft bluish-green needles and cylindrical cones and grows in full sun to partial shade. The tree prefers medium moisture and slightly acidic, well-drained soil. The White Fir thrives in long winters with cool summers and typically reaches 40-70 feet in height and 20-30 feet in width. Once established, the tree is drought tolerant. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.

Photo credit: The Garden Club of America

Margaret Douglas Medal 2023

Margaret Douglas Medal

2023 Winner: Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab

For notable service to the cause of conservation education

For more than 40 years, Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab have endeavored to safeguard the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, and provide water quality research to the nation. A program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ohio Sea Grant is dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. Stone Laboratory, OSU’s education and outreach facility on Lake Erie, serves scientists from across the Great Lakes region, offering lab facilities, field work equipment, research vessels, and housing. Together these entities are recognized for their outstanding clean

water research and educational leadership.

Photo credit: Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory