Ambassadors for the PSI are those who have achieved greatness in some or several aspects of Passiflora. The selection is made by a vote of all current PSI members on an annual basis and receive with their award a lifetime Premium membership to the Passiflora Society International, with all the benefits that come with it, now and in the future. The first Ambassador, Ron Boender has a particularly unique title of “Founder”. Below you can read a bit about these incredible people who have spent much of their lives in the service of Passiflora.
Founder – Ron Boender – Inducted in 2012.
Born of Dutch immigrants and raised in Illinois, USA, Ron Boender has always had a fascination with butterflies. After retiring from a successful career as an electrical engineer, he decided to actively pursue his interest in these beautiful creatures. On March 28, 1988, together with his business partner Clive Farrell from the UK, he opened the doors to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida, USA, where he has grown, bred and observed many thousands of specimens. This, the finest exhibition of its type in the world, housing approximately 5000 butterflies, attracts over 250,000 visitors a year.
Of course, anyone with a passion for butterflies will naturally begin to appreciate their food sources, amongst those being the genus Passiflora. In 1990, Ron and a select few of other enthusiasts founded the Passiflora Society International, a non-profit organization created for the advancement and exchange of information regarding these remarkable plants.
Over the next 22 years, Ron and his team’s accomplishments have far exceeded their original intentions, including:
– The introduction, identification, classification and expansion of Passiflora species to nearly 600, including some saved from certain extinction.
– Created a seed bank for people from all over the world to share.
– Built a team of taxonomists and other scientists for further identification and classification of new species.
– Brought in additional Passiflora experts, creating a hub for information exchange and a great network of enthusiastic support of the Genus.
– Created an international Passiflora Register with the ICRA, for all new cultivars to be properly recognized.
– Published a printed Passiflora newsletter for the society’s members.
– Held annual meetings all over the world, giving members the opportunity to meet in person and share their interest, knowledge, and passion.
In 2012, Ron retired from the Presidency of the PSI. As the new President, it is my pleasure to grant Ron Boender the Founder’s Award. Ron Boender is the first and only person to be given the title of Founder, and we hope that it will in some small way convey our gratitude for his years of dedication. With this title, he is granted full membership benefits for life, with all that it entails now and in the future. We all realize that the current Society would not exist if Ron had not taken the reigns and paved our path. He may have retired, but his legacy remains. We will continue to promote the Genus, and follow his example for years to come, with the intention and hope that our efforts will continue to make him proud of what he started.