The Hobart Alumni Association has selected award-winning author and horticulturalist William G. Cullina ’86 as the most recent recipient of the Hobart Medal of Excellence. The Association’s highest honor will be presented on Saturday, Aug. 6, during a regional HWS gathering in Boothbay, Maine, at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG), where Cullina serves as executive director.
Noted for his expertise as a horticulturist and his extensive knowledge of native North American plants, Cullina joined CMBG in 2008 as director of horticulture and plant curator. Today, he leads the staff in their mission to forge connections among people, plants and nature through horticulture, education and research.
The Medal of Excellence will be presented to Cullina during the gathering hosted by Nick Hurd ’64 and Joan Hinton Hurd ’65, who first met Cullina when Nick joined the CMBG board in 2008.
Even then, Nick Hurd recalls, Cullina was already making a real impact. “Over the first years of his leadership he built an entirely new and highly professional management team,” Hurd explains. “It has been very rewarding to see him mature in and redefine the role.”
Cullina began his career as a retail greenhouse manager and later as a research aide, performing experiments and collecting data on forest ecology and silvicultural practices. These positions led to his appointment as greenhouse manager for the University of Connecticut’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, and then nursery manager of Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, N.C. For 13 years, he served as nursery director and head propagator at the New England Wildflower Society, where he developed New England’s largest native plant nursery, producing 75,000 woody and herbaceous plants annually for garden and restoration use.
In the years since, Cullina has published several books on native plants and has become a regular contributor to popular magazines and technical journals. In addition to his written work, he has appeared on television and radio shows such as “The Martha Stewart Show” and NPR’s “Living on Earth.”
Under Cullina’s leadership, CMBG was named Trip Advisor’s No. 1 botanical garden to visit in America, beating out those in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Currently, the CMBG‘s 270-acre grounds boast gardens with various themes — the Children’s Garden, Fairy Garden and Meditation Garden, to name a few. Approaching its 10th anniversary, CMBG is on track to see more than 150,000 visitors in 2016 and is embarking on an ambitious 20-year master plan to broaden its appeal and underscore its role as a regional economic driver.
As a student at HWS, Cullina majored in psychology and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn a graduate degree from the University of Connecticut.
Among his many honors and awards, he has received the Scott Medal for lifetime achievement in horticulture, the Award of Merit from the Perennial Plant Association, and the George Robert White Medal for “advancing horticulture in the broadest sense.” In May of 2013, he received the prestigious Award of Excellence for advancing the goals of the National Garden Clubs of America.
Beyond his horticultural work, he serves as a volunteer firefighter, on the board of the Boothbay Region Land Trust, and is a part-time lobsterman.
The Hobart Medal of Excellence is awarded to an alumnus who, by reason of outstanding accomplishments in his business, profession or community service, has brought honor and distinction to his alma mater.