Volunteer Spotlight: Frank Muto
Phipps is well-known for our beautiful gardens, seasonal flower shows, pioneering sustainability initiatives, informative educational programs and community outreach. None of our work, however, would be possible without the knowledge and dedication of our volunteers. In this series of profiles, we meet some of the people who give their time to make Phipps possible.
A high school teacher and mentor for 20 years, it is no surprise that docent Frank Muto highly values education. His specialty lays in the STEM fields in particular — throughout his career he taught courses in biology, anatomy, physiology, botany and environmental studies. In addition to this, he was also responsible for integrating technology into a K – 12 school district curriculum — certainly no small feat. And if that doesn’t sound like enough work to last a lifetime, Frank has spent the last seven years at Rivers of Steel giving back to his community.
Located in the North Shore, Rivers of Steel is a nonprofit that works to preserve and celebrate Pittsburgh’s rich heritage as a steel authority by offering tours, workshops, festivals, exhibition programs and more. Frank works as a teacher aboard the riverboat and science vessel The Explorer, where he leads students in hands-on STEM activities that shed light on the quality of Pittsburgh’s three rivers.
But Frank’s interest doesn’t end with teaching others. His own passion for learning has never gone away. In fact, it’s one of the many reasons why he chooses to volunteer at Phipps.
“There is always something new to learn and I wanted to continue learning here at Phipps,” he says. Now a volunteer for nearly five years, Frank first started by working on the installation of various flower shows and helping the science education department. He has also trained as a Garden Guide for children’s tours and as a docent, a position he has been holding since last spring.
Frank has always been interested in plants and gardening; he has been planting flower and vegetable gardens for over 45 years. Because of this, volunteering at Phipps was a natural first-choice, and something that was always on his to-do list. “Phipps is a world-famous icon of Pittsburgh,” Frank says. “It’s a privilege to be able to work in this big glasshouse with some of the most talented and dedicated people.”
After retiring, Frank’s days are now more open and flexible, though never boring. With five grandchildren, Frank has his hands full babysitting as well as working on home improvement projects, nature and landscape photography, travel, working on the rivers and of course, volunteering. Frank is as busy as ever, and his zeal for life continues to burn bright.
“There is still much to learn,” Frank says. “I’m happy I can learn here.”