Private Donation to the Botanic Garden: 50,000 Euros for the Planned "Green School"

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Gateff supports showcase project aimed at opening up a new integration of educational and experience courses

Private donation goes to the Botanic Garden at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz: Mainz Professor Dr. Elisabeth Gateff supports the planned "Green School" with 50,000 Euros. This innovative and multifunctional building will allow comprehensive courses to be held in the future. These courses will mean children and young people and also interested members of older age groups can experience and learn about the diversity of plant life. "We would like to thank Professor Gateff for her generous donation," says the Director of the Institute of Special Botany and the Botanic Garden, Prof. Joachim W. Kadereit, Ph.D., "because this donation will make financing the Green School significantly easier. It would not have been possible to implement this project in such a short time had we not received it."

Gateff has been closely associated with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and particularly with the Botanic Garden for many years. As a professor, she headed the Institute of Genetics from 1983 to 1997, where she studied cancer development in fruit flies. She received several prestigious awards for her research in which she proved that cancer has a genetic basis. Her relationship with botanic gardens goes back to her early childhood. Professor Gateff grew up in Sofia, where her father headed the Royal Botanic Garden. Upon finishing school, she was not allowed to study in Bulgaria. She worked for several years in a factory for high voltage equipment, initially as a lathe operator and later in the design office. She came to Germany in 1956 as a refugee. After taking the German university entrance exam, she studied biology, chemistry, and geography for teaching in higher education in Munich. Upon completing her studies, Professor Gateff moved to the United States and worked as a research associate at the Institute for Developmental Biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her Ph.D. in 1971 at the University of California in Irvine. In 1972, she moved to Freiburg im Breisgau as an academic assistant, and she habilitated there in 1978. In 1983, she took the chair of genetics Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. When the Friends of the Botanic Garden of Johannes Gutenberg University was founded in 1998, Professor Gateff was one of its first members.
"I owe much of my professional success to the university and the academic environment that I was able to work in," says Prof. Gateff. "That is why I want so much to give the university something back, and to take on social responsibility."

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Johannes Preuß, Vice President of Research at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, stressed the significance of private commitment in today's civil society. "If you are willing to share responsibility, you make an important contribution to ensuring the future of our society – especially in the area of education and science," says Preuß, "and against a background of tight public budgets, we at the university are increasingly reliant on private initiatives."

Green School: Awakening Enthusiasm for Nature and Science
The "Green School" has set itself the task of awakening children's enthusiasm for plant life. The main tasks of the academic garden are still centered on academic research and teaching, but public educational courses are now also a key part of the way it sees itself, as well as the goal of contributing towards securing biodiversity via engendering a culture of conservation and building public awareness of the issue. The redesign of the garden recently implemented goes to meeting these demands.

The "Green School" will now continue to enhance the mission of the Botanic Garden and communicate this to the outside world. The building will have a central room for instruction which can be equipped as needed with work desks or with chairs for lecture type courses. "The 'Green School' is designed to be multipurpose," explains the academic director of the Botanic Garden, Dr. Ralf Omlor, "because it will not only be used for teaching school classes, it will also cater for continuing education courses for teachers, seminars and public lectures, academic conventions, and exhibitions. This way we can use the potential of the garden in totally new ways in the future and meaningfully extend the educational courses we offer."

"Botanic Garden Becomes a National Pioneer"
The building costs of over 370,000 Euros will be carried by the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth, and Culture, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the university's Faculty of Biology ,and the Friends of the Botanic Garden. The construction is due to start in the middle of the year. "The building is now completely funded, but we still need funds to acquire microscopes," says Dr. Omlor. "The Friends of the Botanic Garden have opened a donation account for the project. We hope further donors and sponsors will support the 'Green School.'" In a second phase following construction of the "Green School," a position will be created for an educational expert who will be responsible for coordinating all the educational work within the Botanic Garden and for networking with the teacher training element of the Faculty of Biology. "This means the Botanic Garden of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has a pioneering role among the university gardens in Germany," says the Vice President. "Although many botanic gardens are now engaged in educational work, few have the infrastructure and personnel capacity we have. At the same time, a firm commitment to such education against a background of climate change and loss of biodiversity around the world has become an enormously important task within society."

The Botanic Garden of Johannes Gutenberg University has attracted considerable publicity over the last few years due to the exciting exhibitions and large events it has staged, such as the Music Night. "In the meantime, around 3.500 people take part in some 150 tours per year, including increasing numbers of children and school groups," said Dr. Omlor. "The interest in what the Botanic Garden has to offer is growing steadily."