At the time, BRIT was housed in a 12,000-square-foot warehouse on eastern edge of downtown
Twenty years later, BRIT has grown exponentially.
With an annual budget of
This week, Sohmer, BRIT's president and director, announced he is retiring on
In a press release,
"Sy has served as our executive officer for more than 20 years as BRIT has grown and found its place among the great botanical research institutes of the world," Bartel said. "His passion, experience, and leadership have been instrumental to BRIT's success, and I know he'll be looking forward to many more interesting opportunities."
One of the key issues was fund-raising and Sohmer was instrumental in getting financial support for the privately funded non-profit.
"His invaluable accomplishments have put the institute on solid financial ground for many years to come," Bartel said. "To recognize Sy's contributions to BRIT, the Board will name him director emeritus and will present him with the 2015 International Award of Excellence in Conservation."
Under Sohmer, BRIT has the 11th-largest herbarium in
"My life's dream has been to create and lead a botanical organization of international renown," Sohmer said in a statement. "As a scientist, you are always looking for that one-in-a-million discovery. Well, in 1993, I made that discovery -- at BRIT. Since then, I have devoted my life to growing it into a research and educational organization that is known and respected around the world. What a gift it has been to be involved with the staff, nearly all of whom I have hired, members, volunteers, board, and the many donors without whom we could not exist! "
In a 2011
"The building was designed for that purpose, " Sohmer said. "We looked at a number of other locations, but we knew this is the best place for us to be."
The building includes many conservation features, including captured storm-water runoff, in-house irrigation, retaining ponds, wetlands, soil filtering, hardy native species and a "living roof" of plants.
"We're basically a conservation organization, and we wanted this building to reflect our conservation mission, " Sohmer said in a 2010
BRIT was first incorporated in 1987 to house plant specimens owned by
Over the years, BRIT has also launched a respected scientific journal, and supported research in botanically diverse locales such as
Following his retirement,
Sohmer plans to remain active in a number of organizations, including the
The article contains information from the
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