Volunteer Spotlight: Ron Rademacher
Apr 05

Volunteer Spotlight: Ron Rademacher

By Aurora Winwood

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.

When most people think of Phipps, they think of flowers; but, for volunteer docent, Ron Rademacher, Phipps has much more to offer. “It’s not just a place with flowers,” he says, “it’s a place where things are living.” Through his tours, Ron hopes to impart to visitors the impact of interacting with the natural world and show how nature can bring people joy.

Ron began volunteering as a docent at Phipps in March 2013 after the opening of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes attracted him to become part of what Phipps was doing in sustainability. Initially, Ron served as a stationed docent, but now gives tours to visitors throughout the Conservatory and the CSL. To date, Ron has given 281 tours, each of which, he says, is different from any other. But it’s more than the number of tours that Ron takes pride in. He says, “every time someone walks out with a smile, it’s a milestone.”

When he first began touring, Ron explains that the sheer volume of information was overwhelming, so in order to keep the tours fresh and exciting, Ron focuses on the specific things visitors express interest in. By tailoring his tours to satisfy those interests, Ron is able to cater each tour to each group of guests. “The tours are fun because you get to meet new people,” Ron says, “You get to answer the questions people ask.” Ron’s favorite tours are those in which he is asked a question he can’t answer, seeing it as a challenge to figure it out.

Ron believes it is his duty to share with guests as much as he can, and that all docents should be able to give at least an hour long tour of each room at Phipps. While no one has ever taken him up on a tour of this length and depth, Ron is confident that he could do it in such a way that an hour in each room would fly by.

According to Ron, Phipps is a place where people can escape the craziness of daily life and be surrounded by natural beauty. In order to share this and excite others about Phipps, Ron frequently gives away tickets to friends, family and even strangers. Meeting new people and helping them learn about the beauty of nature makes volunteering worthwhile for Ron. Working as a docent is also a way for Ron to stimulate his mind, keep life from getting boring and have fun.

Aside from volunteering at Phipps, Ron also enjoys gardening at home, where he has reclaimed a hillside behind his townhouse. Each year he extends his gardens, planting mostly perennials. Through his volunteering at Phipps, Ron has learned sustainable practices that he applies to his own garden and home. He reclaims the water he uses for his garden and has also devised an energy saving system to move the cool air from his basement up to the top floor in his home.

His passion for sustainability has also inspired Ron to practice eco-friendly woodworking. He utilizes unprocessed, reclaimed lumber to create completely natural wooden products. Phipps has had Ron’s woodwork on display in the gift shop for the past four years, and in 2016, commissioned Ron to craft an interactive loom for kids, which was on display in the South Conservatory for the duration of Summer Flower Show: Playgardens. Ron is proud that Phipps has been so supportive of his work and he continues to integrate sustainability into his woodworking, lifestyle and volunteering.   

Select photos © Paul g. Wiegman, Denmarsh Photography, Inc.


We and Phipps are so lucky to be in the same universe as you, Ron.  You make all of us want to be better at what we do.  You are the Harvard case study in what makes a volunteer valuable, conducting the most wonderful tours and bringing your unparalleled excellence to all that you contribute and do both personally and professionally.  We continue to remain your biggest fans.  Lucky Phipps!  Lucky Us!

By Steven and Carmen Sapir on Apr 6, 2018