Generous private donation for the Botanic Garden at Mainz University

Elisabeth Gateff supports the planned Green School with EUR 50,000


With a private donation of EUR 50,000 for the Botanic Garden of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Professor Dr. Elisabeth Gateff, retired JGU professor, supports the planned Green School. The innovative and multifunctional building of the Green School will be used to implement comprehensive education and experience programs on the fantastic variety of flora. The programs will be particularly focused on children, but should appeal to interested people of all ages. "We thank Professor Dr. Gateff for her very generous donation," says the head of the Institute of Specific Botany and the Botanic Garden, Professor Dr. Joachim W. Kadereit. "This donation has made an essential contribution to the financing of the Green School. Without this contribution, it would not have been possible to implement the project so quickly."

Professor Dr. Elisabeth Gateff has long been connected with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and with the Botanic Garden in particular. From 1983 to1997, she headed the JGU Institute of Genetics, where she researched the origins of cancer in fruit flies. She received several renowned prizes for her research, which proved that cancer has genetic causes. Her connection with Botanic Gardens goes back to her childhood. Professor Gateff grew up in Sofia, where her father managed the Royal Botanic Garden. However, after her high school graduation, she was not allowed to study in Bulgaria. So she spent several years working in a power equipment factory, first as a turner and later in the design department. In 1956, she arrived in Germany as a refugee. After graduating from a German secondary school, she was able to study biology, chemistry, and geography for secondary schools in Munich. After completing her studies, Professor Dr. Gateff moved to the United States, where she worked as a researcher at the Institute for Developmental Biology at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1971, she obtained a PhD from the University of California in Irvine. In 1972, she started as a university researcher in Freiburg im Breisgau back in Germany, where she received her post-doctoral professorial qualification in 1978. In 1983, she took over the Institute of Genetics at Mainz University. Professor Dr. Elisabeth Gateff was one of the first members of the Friends of the Botanic Garden, an association founded in 1998.

"My professional success was partially due to the university and the scientific environment in which I was allowed to work," says Professor Gateff. "I therefore want to give something back to Mainz University and thus accept my social responsibility."

The Vice President of Research at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Dr. Johannes Preuss, emphasized the importance of private commitment in a modern, democratic society. "The will to share responsibility is an important contribution towards securing the future of our society – in particular in the field of education and science," says Preuss. "Tight public budgets make our university increasingly dependent on private initiatives."

The Green School: Create excitement for nature and science

The JGU Green School is aimed at creating interest in the world of plants among children. The core responsibilities of the university's Botanic Garden are still research and teaching. However, public education and the attempt to contribute towards the protection of biological variety by creating a culture of conservation and awareness are increasing in importance. This was already taken into account in the current reconstruction of the Botanic Garden.

The Green School is intended to strengthen these services offered by the Botanic Garden and to make them more visible to the public. The building will have a central training room that can be equipped with table workstations or chairs for lectures, as required. "The Green School was designed to be multifunctional," explains the scientific head of the Botanic Garden, Dr. Ralf Omlor. "It is intended to support school classes as well as continuing education for teachers, seminars and public lectures, scientific conferences as well as the presentation of exhibitions. This will make it possible to use the potential of the garden in a completely new way and to considerably extend our already established range of educational activities."

"The JGU Botanic Garden assumes a pioneering role"

The costs of the building project amount to EUR 370,000. They are being borne by the Rhineland-Palatine Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Culture, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Faculty of Biology at JGU as well as the Friends of the Botanic Garden. Construction is likely to start in the middle of 2008. "All the money for the building is now available. However, we still have to get in some funds to equip the school with microscopes," explains Dr. Ralf Omlor. "The Friends of the Botanic Garden have opened a donations account for this project. We hope that we can motivate other donors or sponsors to support the Green School. The construction of the Green School will be followed by the creation of a post for a teacher who will coordinate all educational services at the Botanic Garden and generate links with the teacher training course of the Faculty of Biology. "This makes the JGU Botanic Garden a pioneer among the university gardens in Germany," explains Vice President Preuss. "Many botanic gardens are by now involved in educational work, but hardly any of these university gardens has appropriate spatial and staff capacities. However, climate change and the global extinction of species require a consistent commitment to our educational role that has become an extremely important social responsibility."

In recent years, the Botanic Garden of Mainz University has attracted attention with interesting exhibitions and major events such as the Night of Music. "Every year, approximately 3,500 people take part in about 150 guided tours and the share of children and school groups is increasing," reports Dr. Ralf Omlor. "This proves that the interest in what the Botanic Garden has to offer is continuously increasing."