Director Sweeney Honored with Garden Club of America Award

300 225 Stroud Water Research Center


Denver, Co. – Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, Director of the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pa., was awarded the Margaret Douglas Medal by the Garden Club of America (GCA) at their annual banquet in Denver, Co. on Tuesday, May 23. Sweeney was proposed for the medal, which honors “notable service to the cause of conservation education” by Mrs. Thomas C. Swett and Mrs. Richard M. Armstrong, Jr., members of The West Chester (PA) Garden Club.

Sweeney was honored for his long and distinguished career in research and public education. His visionary leadership of the Stroud Water Research Center has enhanced the understanding of and appreciation for the important role that streams, rivers and their and watersheds play in the health of our planet. As Director, President and Senior Research scientist since 1989 he has established the Stroud Center as perhaps the world’s foremost research organization devoted to stream and river ecosystems.

In awarding the medal to Sweeney, the GCA noted: “He has pioneered the study of riparian vegetation and the buffering effects it can have against non-point source water pollution. He has been a voice of calm and reason, using impeccable scientific research to support fair and effective solutions to a wide range of environmental problems through a team approach. He has been very involved in the evolution of the New York City water supply, the study of subtropical streams in Costa Rica and of tropical fresh water systems in South America. In addition, he has contributed thousands of hours of his own time helping solve environmental problems in his own community and across the country.”

Sweeney responded by offering a request and a challenge to the roomful of representatives of garden clubs from across the country. He asked each club president to suggest to her members that “gardening for water” is far more important than “watering their gardens,” and he challenged them to invite each of the nation’s 17,500 garden club members to convert 100 square feet of their own lawns to a native plant garden and to recruit one neighbor to do the same. These seemingly small acts, said Sweeney, would have a substantial cumulative impact on the nation’s fresh water by reducing the amount of mowing, fertilizer, and pesticides required to maintain a lawn and by increasing capacity of their back yards to absorb rain. This collective effort would be the beginning a national movement, spearheaded by the Stroud Water Research Center and the Garden Club of America, to expand the role of native plants in providing clean fresh water to the nation. The 650 people in the room responded to the challenge with a standing ovation.

Dr. Sweeney has published over forty articles. His many awards include the United States Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service’s 2003 Excellence in Conservation Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on May 2nd of this year.

The Margaret Douglas Medal was designed in 1952 by Rene P. Chambellan, presented and endowed by Mrs. Robert D. Sterling, Garden Club of Dublin and Monadnock Garden Club, to honor Mrs. Walter Douglas, a Member at Large. Previous medal recipients include Mrs. Avery Rockefeller, Mrs. Gerrish Milliken and Merlin Tuttle, last year’s awardee.

The Medal is awarded on the joint recommendation of the Conservation Committee and the Medal Award Committee for notable service to the cause of conservation education. Although preference is given to Garden Club of America members, the medal may be given to a non-member. National Awards are given each year by the GCA to landscape designers, educators, writers, environmentalists, horticulturists, flower arrangers and conservationists across the country who have made a significant contributions in their fields.