Learning from Dad

Many professionals credit their parents for the inspiration to pursue a particular career. Some may admire their parents’ ability to channel their passions into a profession and seek to follow a similar path. Others may cite the parental encouragement they received to follow their own unique interests. Whatever the circumstances, parental support can be a vital component of any successful career. 

It certainly was for some of our scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden. In the spirit of Father’s Day, a few of our scientists share how their fathers inspired them to pursue a career in plant science.




Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, says his father, a businessman who worked for the city of San Francisco, always encouraged him to pursue his passion.

“I became interested in insects when I was around seven years old, and both my parents were very accepting.  As I slowly made the transition to plants, he was always ready to drive me around California (I grew up in San Francisco) so I could find some gems for my collection, with a happy, positive, encouraging attitude.  He passed away nearly 40 years ago, and I miss him!”



Restoration ecologist Leighton Reid says his father, an AP biology teacher, passed on a love of science to him.

“Dad has been teaching biology for 43 years, and he’s quite good at it. When I was a high school student in his class, I sat on the front row and often had trouble staying awake. He would sometimes raise his voice to make a point, and that would jolt me upright in my chair. I admit that I was not very interested in the units on cellular and molecular biology, but Dad primed me for a career in ecology by exposing me early and often to all kinds of natural history. Growing up, he took me on hikes in Shenandoah National Park where he would show me wildflowers. We also went on road trips across the country and visited lots of different ecosystems, from the rocky coast of Newfoundland to the redwood forests in California. Three years ago, I had the opportunity to teach an ecology course with Dad in the Galapagos Islands, where we swam with marine iguanas and Humboldt penguins. The knowledge and inspiration that Dad gave me certainly impacted my choice to become a scientist.”


Amy Pool, curatorial assistant in research, also had a father who taught science.

“My dad was a chemistry professor at Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont. He loved teaching, particularly working with students one on one in the lab. As a professor at a small college, he taught all aspects of chemistry, but his favorite was qualitative analysis and I have often thought that the thought process for building a chemical qualitative flow chart is pretty similar to what I do for a living; creating dichotomous plant identification keys. He was a lifetime learner and enjoyed co-teaching classes with his colleagues in botany, ecology and geology as well as taking walks with me and learning the tricks plants use to get their flowers pollinated and their seeds dispersed. Some of my favorite childhood memories include excited conversations with him about continental drift and studying graphs and charts as we pondered the delay in the predicted Greenhouse Effect. He inspired in me the desire to try to understand and better appreciate the natural world around me.”

Catherine Martin
Public Information Specialist

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