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James Rodman: Long-time supporter establishes John H. Beaman Memorial Herbarium Fund

james rodman

Long-time MSU supporter James E. Rodman, Ph.D., (B.S., botany and plant pathology; Honors College, ’67) created the John H. Beaman Memorial Herbarium Fund in 2020. The endowment honors the memory of Beaman (1929-2015), who was an MSU professor of systematic biology and curator of MSU’s Beal-Darlington Herbarium.

Over a 37-year career of teaching, research and mentoring, Beaman inspired dozens of students—including Rodman—to study, collect, research, contemplate and enjoy plants. Rodman, who served as program director for systematic biology at the National Science Foundation until 2006, is very involved in a community garden, and describes himself as a “rabid Master Gardener.”

“A plant-collecting trip to Mexico in late summer 1967, with the whole family in tow, is just one of many fond memories of pivotal interventions by professor Beaman that shaped my career in botany,” Rodman said.

With experience gained in hunting plant treasures in the montane forests in Mexico, Beaman hopped an ocean to explore botanical riches on Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu and attracted new generations of colleagues and friends.

James Beach (B.S., botany, ’76) also contributed to the fund.

“While I was an undergraduate, Dr. Beaman transformed my university experience by repeatedly offering research and teaching opportunities,” Beach said. “He was an extraordinary academic mentor, and his munificent generosity, patience and thoughtfulness changed the course of my career and my life. John Beaman's legacy is sure evidence of the impact a single faculty scholar can have on incoming students who are still puzzling through all the intellectual and career pathways a large, prestigious university can present.”

“He was kind and wise, and his Herbarium was a welcoming and nurturing place. In honoring Professor Beaman—the ‘gentleman-scholar’ from North Carolina—we donors are honored ourselves,” Rodman added.

“One of John’s legacies is the Herbarium—widely recognized as a go-to resource for anyone with an interest or need to study plant diversity,” said Alan Prather, Herbarium director. “The John H. Beaman Memorial Herbarium Fund honors him in the best possible way: enabling the Herbarium and its students to continue documenting plant biodiversity in Michigan, the Great Lakes and around the world. This fund will support research, teaching and outreach that relies on the Herbarium and will help the Herbarium stay vibrant and dynamic.”

Today, the Herbarium is located in the basement of the east wind of the Plant Biology Building and contains more than 500,000 plant specimens from all over the world, including lichenized and non-lichenized fungi. Its vascular plant collection is the oldest in the state, with a number of historically important specimens.