I am very sorry to bring the sad news that our colleague and friend Vicki Funk died on Tuesday evening, 22 October 2019. Vicki was an amazing and inspiring person in so many ways. She was always positive, generous, and creative, not only in her approach to science, but also in her approach to life. Vicki was a staunch supporter of IAPT and its essential role and she contributed to the organization in so many ways over the years. She was currently serving as Past President and previously served as President from 2011 to 2017. Earlier she served as a member of Council. She was a passionate advocate for botany, systematics, natural history collections, and many other topics that were important to her. She had a no-nonsense attitude about getting the work done, yet she had a wonderful sense of humor that was never far from the surface and frequently on display. Vicki always made time to offer help and advice to students and colleagues. She mentored numerous students and postdocs in her career in the Botany Department of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In addition to all of her contributions to her scientific interests and our plant systematics community, she also contributed greatly to her institution. She believed that working for the Smithsonian was an honor and consequently she volunteered to serve the museum and institution in multiple different projects. The Smithsonian Institution as a whole and the NMNH in particular have benefitted greatly from her energy, creativity, and dedication.
Although her health was failing, Vicki was determined to attend the Botany 2019 conference in Tucson, Arizona where the IAPT held its Council meeting this year. While she was clearly suffering from the aggressive cancer that she had been fighting since early this year, her passion and creativity were just as evident as ever at the meeting. In typical Vicki fashion, her enthusiastic support for the idea of establishing a new grants program to support small herbaria was decisive in convincing Council that this was an important new initiative for IAPT (information on the IAPT Small Collections Grants can be found here.
Vicki believed strongly in the essential role that professional societies like IAPT serve in supporting scientific communities, and especially in the role that they play for students and early career scientists. She also believed strongly in international collaboration. This is the essence of IAPT, and it is why she dedicated so much time and energy to the success of our organization. Vicki Funk was a rare individual- a “unicate” if ever there was one!
With much appreciation for the many years that I was able to enjoy interacting with our friend Vicki.
Photos: Top row- Vicki receiving the Linnean Medal from Sandy Knapp, Oct. 2019 at NMNH (J. Wen), with current and former students and postdocs and colleagues at the Botany 2019 conference (K. Skogen), at the 2007 ASPT banquet at Field Museum (P. Herendeen); Bottom row- Vicki in the field in southern Patagonia (M. Bonifacino), in Puna, Chile (M. Diazgranados), on the way to the Botany 2018 conference in Minnesota (S. Knapp).