The Hoover Award

The Hoover Award was established by the San Luis Obispo chapter in 1974 to recognize a person that has made significant contribution to the success and well being to the SLO chapter of CNPS.

The selection is made at a meeting of the past recipients, and the award is generally presented at the annual banquet.

In Recognition of Distinguished Service


Judi Young Webmaster

Susi Bernstein and Judi Young

2014We are pleased to announce that the Hoover Committee, composed of past recipients of the award, has selected Judi Young as the 2014 honoree.A California native, Judi grew up in a family that for generations has valued our unique environment and ecosystems.  Add to that a love of flowers and plants that was nurtured and encouraged during her growing up years; home gardens have always been an important part of her life. Judi moved to the Central Coast to be closer to her family, and we met Judi when she started to occasionally ‘hang out’ with her parents Heather and Jim Johnson at CNPS events.Judi’s talents are many and varied, with experience as a floral business owner, electronic communications, and a web design consultant.  In 2010, the local chapter board sought to improve our small and dated website.  With her internet experience, artistic eye and interest in native plants, Judi saw the possibilities of revamping the website and stepped up to the task at hand.  Today, our chapter has a beautiful, informative website that she designed and continuously updates.

In 2012, Judi also took on Publicity duties for our chapter, keeping the public updated on events and news through Community Calendar posts and the occasional Facebook ad. She also maintains our email newsletter list and sends Obispoensis directly to our inboxes.

Judi is very important to our chapter’s appeal to younger people who use social media to connect with causes and attend events. She constantly reminds us what is possible in the modern world of communication, and how it can benefit our outreach to existing and new members. To further increase our outreach presence, Judi has set up and maintains a Facebook page (along with Mardi Niles and Kristie Haydu and others) , a very effective venue for connecting with people who want to know more about native plants. In fact, just recently a group of home-schooling mothers contacted us via Facebook, requesting some assistance with tree identification on the Bob Jones trail in Avila Beach. We were able to provide the needed information, and we also attended a somewhat spontaneously organized fieldtrip with these mothers and their children out on the trail! This sort of connection with interested people, previously unaware of CNPS, was made possible by Judi’s successful efforts to move us into the modern age.

In addition to Judi’s importance to our digital communications, she is also a big help in many other aspects of the local chapter, including as a regular Plant Sale cashier.

Congratulations to Judi Young!

– Susi Bernstein & Linda Chipping


Suzette Girouard

Suzette Girouard

2013This Year’s Hoover award recipient, Suzette Girouard, grew up in the La Crescenta area located  east of Los Angeles. Suzette got her love of gardening from her mother and also her uncle Ed who had an extensive vegetable garden in his backyard.While still in high school she worked at Descano Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge solidifying her love of plants.  During these early years Suzette knew she wanted to study horticulture and especially viticulture.  Suzette started her dream by attending Fresno State University where she graduated in 1986 with a degree in Horticulture/Viticulture and a minor in Agriculture Business. Around 1994 Suzette moved to Pennsylvania where she lived for about ten years.During the fall of 2004 she returned  to California and moved to San Luis Obispo. After searching  the web for plant groups in our area, she became interested in the California Native Plant Society.  After attending her first meeting she was hooked and joined.  It was not long before this hard worker started volunteering for many projects including ,weed removal, banquet preparations, meeting clean up,  and plant sale coordinating.

As all of our previous Hoover award recipients, Suzette has gone the extra mile with her commitment to help better the society and our local chapter.

Congratulations to Suzette Girouard!

Matt Ritter and Dirk Walters

Matt Ritter and Dirk Walters

Matt Ritter and Dirk Walters

Matt Ritter joined the chapter shortly after arriving at Cal Poly to teach botany. He was assigned to teach a course on California native plants and their communities to prospective elementary school teachers. Finding the subject fascinating, and needing a teaching aid, he wrote and photo illustrated the picture book Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories.

He encourages his students to attend our Chapter meetings in the many botanic courses he teaches, and instills in many an appreciation of both native flora and field work.

Early on Matt accepted the Chapter vice presidency, which is a difficult and time consuming job as it encompasses the role of program chairman. It is Matt we have to thank for the high quality of our speakers, and the large number who have come to us from outside our county. These speakers, including himself, have made several fine presentations.

Our wealth of speakers comes in part because Matt is highly regarded in the academic community. He is a contributing author to the second edition of The Jepson Manual, and to the Flora of North America project. He is also editor-in-chief of Madroño (the journal of the California Botanical Society). Matt was a Kenan Fellowship awardee at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and teaches for the Organization of Tropical Studies in Costa Rica.

As well as authoring numerous academic papers, his book A Californian’s Guide to the Trees among Us has national distribution.

Matt has lead several field trips into our native habitats, grasslands and urban treescape. Following the tradition that a CNPSer is only truly happy when their face is buried in a plant key, he and Dr. Keil have run premeeting keying exercises that have been enormously popular. He chairs the City of San Luis Obispo TreeCommittee.

The Chapter has long supported a student scholarship program. Matt volunteered to look after the program,

— Dr. Dirk Walters: Chair, Hoover Awards Committee

Bill Shearer
Bill Shearer, 2011 Hoover Award recipient

In the world of gardening with California native plants, one never knows when they will be captivated by its magic. It was in the late 1990’s, as Bill was walking his dog through Pismo State Beach, Oceano Campground’s Native Plant Garden, and meeting Jack and Grace Beigle, that he became aware of the possibilities of gardening with native plants. It started by Bill asking lots of questions. One thing let to another and Bill eventually joined the “Garden Gang” on Tuesday mornings and in Grace’s words, “He was enthusiastic!”

Bill has now contributed countless hours to the development of the garden. He has also worked on the removal of non-native invasive species and on
restoration projects in the Oceano Campground and at the North Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Today his special project is the reforestation of the peninsula area in the Oceano lagoon and serving as Co-chair of the
Garden Committee. By the way, Bill has just been awarded his 1,000 hour pin by the Central Coast State Parks Association for the work he has done in the state parks.

Bill’s enthusiasm for gardening with native plants was brought to a new level around 2002, when Bill signed
up for a California native plant gardening class at the Dunes Center in Guadalupe. It was taught by Al Naydol,
who was an active CNPS member, an expert “Cal Native” gardener and at that time was Chief Environmental Officer of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The spin off from those classes was a group of south county CNPS members called the “Native Rooters.”

Bill’s garden at his home in Arroyo Grande is a beautiful oak woodland in the middle of the city, where Bill’s knowledge of California native plants is evident everywhere and he has generously shared his garden on many CNPS Garden Tours.

Bill has also made additional contributions to our chapter by propagating, cultivating, and delivering native plants to our November Plant Sale and helping out at our monthly meetings, our annual pot luck banquet and at work parties through the county. Thank you for your contributions to the SLO chapter of CNPS.


Marlin Harms

Marlin Harms, 2010 Hoover Award recipient


Marlin Harms’ quiet enthusiasm and wondrous photographs are vital both to conservation and appreciation of our county’s wildflowers. Marlin’s photographs are featured prominently throughout “Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo” including the cover photograph of a Calochortus venustus display at Laguna Lake. Typical of Marlin’s enthusiasm was his effort to locate and photograph missing subjects for that book. Marlin is never content with just a pedestrian image, he wants to improve and highlight each species with his art and he is helping germinate the Chapter’s next big publication, a guide to the Carrizo wildflowers.

Marlin has played a behind-the-scenes, but vital role in the successful conservation campaigns preserving so much of our county. His photographs of Hollister Peak, the Sur Sur Ranch, the East West Ranch, and the Palisades property in Los Osos presented to foundations, Congress, and the Legislature generated the excitement and support for those conservation victories. Additionally, Marlin has contributed plants he has grown from seed to our annual plant sale for more than 15 years, quietly supporting our chapter’s centerpiece fund-raiser.


click to view PDF

George Butterworth, 2009 Hoover Award recipient


The honoree of the Hoover Award is George Butterworth. The Hoover award was presented at CNPS-SLO’s January, 2010 banquet in recognition of George Butterworths distinguished and unstinting contributions to our county’s flora, including —

  • his work describing the flora of the Carrizo and the Chimeneas Ranch Reserve,
  • the herbarium he created for Chimeneas and the Carrizo,
  • his expertise and work in the substantial state and CNPS plant association mapping effort for valley grassland
  • his well-planned and delightful field trips into the Chimeneas, Carrizo and Elkhorn Plains, and his annotated checklists,
  • the local butterfly and plant associate checklist that he created in support of our chapter’s community outreach goals.
Heather and Jim Johnson

Heather and Jim Johnson, 2008 Hoover Award Recipients

2008This year it is our privilege to present the Award to Heather and Jim Johnson. Heather and Jim moved to this county about 10 years ago. In short time, they became acquainted with San Luis Obispo’s “organizational landscape,” transferred their CNPS membership to our chapter, and jumped right in.

Their mark on our chapter has grown steadily through the years. With Heather’s knowledge and artistic vision, and Jim’s attention to detail, the local chapter continues to blossom.

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown, 2007 Hoover Award recipient

2007Lauren Brown is the 2007 recipient of the Hoover Award. Lauren first came to notice of the chapter people when she consented to be our Chairperson of our newly formed committee on the control of aggressive exotics ❨weeds❩. This she did by becoming our liaison with several local governmental agencies responsible for weed control. We soon notice that she was helping out all over the place.

Lauren served as the Chapter President for two years and she did a fantastic job. She masterminded the Chapter’s hosting of the State Board Meeting last fall. As President of the Chapter, Lauren was also our Chapter representative to the State CNPS Board. The State Board is large and most of the Chapter attendees attend and then go back to their chapters without much state involvement. The State Officials thought enough of Lauren’s work on the Board that she was asked to run for state office.

John Chesnut

John Chesnut 2004 Hoover Award recipient

2006John Chesnut, this year’s recipient of the Hoover Award has made significant contributions in all three important functions of our statewide society: our scientific authority represented by our Rare Plant and Vegetation programs; our Conservation program, in which we fight for proconservation actions of government and the private sector and oppose destructive activities; and, our Education programs that involve public field trips, horticultural programs and other forms of public outreach.

mardi_pp2005This Hoover award recipient has enriched our chapter in many ways. Her enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and love of native plants, especially those of San Luis Obispo, are shared and appreciated by everyone that has met with her, be it a first-time field trip attendee or one of our botanical experts.
This year’s recipient, Mardi Niles, became our Field Trip chair in 2003. We have had excellent field trips planned and very rewarding turnouts in the years that she has been organizing this very important part of our chapter. Mardi takes great care to plan her walks and line up the leaders well in advance. That she really cares about the people who attend the walks is obvious. Hike leaders have told us how much they appreciate her organization and the assistance she provides when needed.
2004Larry Vierheilig was given the Hoover Award. The list of Larry’s accomplishments is impressive, including work with  Nipomo Native Garden,  Dunes Forum, Dunes Collaborative and People for Nipomo Dunes. He worked with the Land Conservancy of SLO County to identify and preserve special places in the Nipomo area. For over two years Larry wrote monthly native plant gardening articles for the Adobe Press; subsequently he donated them to the SLO Chapter for publication in the Obispoensis. He rescued hundreds of native plants from the corner of Pomeroy and Willow (Ceanothus Corner) for use by the community and established a permanent preserve at Knollwood Estates development for the endemic population of Pismo clarkia, Clarkia speciosa ssp. immaculata at Knollwood. For his contributions to CNPS Larry is very deserving of this award.
2003Susie Bernstein was honored with the Hoover Award at this year’s Annual Banquet. As Education Chair for our chapter, she has shared her infectious enthusiasm for plants and people. For several years, she has been helping with Creek Day, Bob Jones Trail Day and the Farmers Market booth. Her major focus has been assisting the seventh grade science teacher at Los Osos Middle School to develop a plant curriculum. She has taught the students about plant communities and native plants, and how to grow them.
2002Charlie Blair received the Hoover Award this year at the Annual Banquet. Thanks to Charlie’s enthusiasm and leadership the Lompoc area has a CNPS subchapter. Charlie is the one who organizes field trips, finds monthly speakers and attends chapter and state board meetings. We are fortunate to have such an energetic and knowledgeable person in our chapter.
2001The Hoover Award was presented to Eleanor Williams at the Annual Banquet.  Eleanor was honored for her long time service to the San Luis Obispo Chapter of CNPS. She has served as committee chair for field trips and membership committees and as CNPS representative to the Pine Pitch Canker Task Force. In the field she has lead Wild Flower Weekend hikes, worked with the C.C.C. on creek side vegetation restoration, volunteered at the Plant Sale every year, and staffed the information and sales booth. She is currently working with the docents maintaining the demonstration garden at Montano de Oro. Thank you, Eleanor, for giving so much to CNPS!