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Tribute To Barbara Whitney Carr

Sen. Richard J. Durbin

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Mr. President, Chicagoans take our green spaces very seriously. In fact, if you look at the great seal of the city of Chicago, you will see, written in Latin, the city's motto: Urbs in Horto--City in a Garden.

So it seems only natural that Chicago is home to one of America's most popular and spectacular gardens: the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Botanic Garden is one of the brightest jewels in Chicago's crown of great cultural and educational institutions.

Since its opening in 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden has provided a 385-acre island of beauty and tranquility just outside of one of America's biggest and busiest cities.

Today, it is the second-most visited public garden in the country, drawing appreciative visitors from throughout the Chicago area and around the globe.

Part of what makes the Chicago Botanic Garden so extraordinary is the dedication, vision and inexhaustible energy of the woman who has served as its president for the last 12 years, Barbara Whitney Carr.

With a great sense of gratitude--and a touch of sadness I would like to wish Barbara Carr well as she prepares to step down from the Botanic Garden and begin a new chapter in her life. More importantly, I want to thank her for all she has done to make the Chicago Botanic Garden a beautiful oasis, a popular tourist attraction, and an important teaching tool.

Like Daniel Burnham, the legendary planner who redesigned Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, Barbara Carr ``make(s) no little plans.''

She joined the Botanic Garden as president and CEO in 1995 and immediately set to work developing and carrying out a 10-year, $100 million improvement plan.

Her plan included renovation and construction of eight gardens, as well as the restoration of close to 6 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

Under her direction, the Chicago Botanic Garden has expanded its collection to include more than 2 million plants.

While it is undeniably beautiful, the Chicago Botanic Garden prides itself on being more than just a pretty garden. Under Barbara Carr's leadership, the garden has truly become a living museum and classroom. Students from the Chicago Public Schools attend programs at the garden in which they learn about the science of plants and the importance preserving biodiversity.

And you don't even have to visit the Botanic Garden to learn from it. Working with the University of Illinois at Chicago, the garden created an online, searchable database of plant species that can help even the most inexperienced gardener. It is called eplants.org. If you have a garden you might want to bookmark that site. It is a good one.

A few years ago, Barbara Carr realized that in Chicago--one of the greenest cities in the country--there weren't a lot of advanced degree programs in horticulture and botany, and she quickly set about to fill that gap. She initiated the creation of an Academic Affairs Program at the Botanic Garden and teamed with Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois to develop several outstanding academic programs.

In recent years the garden has become the site of cutting edge research in the fields of botany and environmental conservation.

In recent years the garden has become the site of cutting edge research in the fields of botany and environmental conservation. It is home to an impressive seed repository called the Seeds of Success program, part of a global initiative to collect and store native seeds in order to preserve plant biodiversity.

Over the years, both Barbara and the garden have received many accolades. The garden was recognized for its educational programs and community outreach projects with the National Award for Museum and Library Service in 2004. This prestigious honor is the highest award bestowed upon a museum. Earlier this year, the American Public Garden Association presented Barbara with the 2007 Award of Merit, the organization's highest honor.

Before joining the Botanic Garden, Barbara Carr earned a degree from Denison University in Ohio. She spent nearly 20 years at the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, serving as its executive director and president.

To say that Barbara is ``retiring'' somehow doesn't seem quite right. It would be more accurate to say that she is redirecting her energies. I have no doubt that Barbara will remain involved in her community and committed to the many causes in which she believes so deeply. She will also have the opportunity to spend more time with her family: her husband Robert F. Carr III--better known as Tad their six children, and 11 grandchildren.

I join the residents of Chicago, the ``city in a garden,'' in thanking Barbara Whitney Carr for helping to create a garden in our city that makes us all proud.