Robin Jess


2016 ASBA James White Service Award for Dedication to Botanical Art
by Susan Cumins


Thanking Robin Jess

ASBA members bid a fond farewell (but not good-bye) to retiring Executive Director Robin Jess. Robin served brilliantly as the organization’s executive director from 2003 to 2016. At the 2016 conference in Pittsburgh, Robin was honored with the ASBA James White Service Award for Dedication to Botanical Art.

With degrees from the University of Delaware (major in art, minor in botany) and Pratt Institute (MA), Robin’s pre-ASBA career included serving as interim executive director of the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts. A freelance botanical illustrator and teacher since 1976, she developed the botanical illustration certificate program at NYBG in 1984. Robin’s series of 40 watercolors of New Jersey's Pinelands flora toured the state's major museums and arts venues.

This August 2014 photo, taken at the Russian Tea Room in New York City, shows (left to right) Robin Jess, current ASBA administrator Ann Hoffenberg, and retired administrator Linda Crawford. Linda was Robin’s first assistant, working first as a volunteer, then as part-time staff, until 2012. She describes Robin as “a great lady to work for—smart, talented, fair, loads of patience plus a dynamic sense of humor.”
Lynne Railsback took this photo (at right) of Robin and Linda Crawford during the threesome’s visit to the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware. As Lynne recounts, “Who has a better way with words than Robin? I learned this as she tweaked drafts of my request for Silent Auction donations. Despite her demanding schedule, Robin always took time to make the words sound more convincing. And she was never too busy to join my husband and me for breakfast, give us a tour of a garden, or help us fix a flat tire while in NY.”

Robin and Marilyn Garber represented the ASBA in Thailand in 2006 during the first meeting of the Guild of Asian Botanical Artists. From left to right, Marilyn, Robin, Dr. Tetsuo Koyama, botanist and Director of Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden; Jee-Yeon Koo, South Korea; Mieko Ishikawa, Japan. Robin and Marilyn also met with members of the newly formed Irish Botanical Society in 2014.

The ASBA Awards Committee stated it best: Robin has been a best friend to botanical art for many, many years and in ways too numerous to list. She is a teacher, an accomplished botanical artist, and a tireless advocate for both botanical art and ASBA itself.  
When I first met Robin years ago, her enthusiasm, positive energy, and hard work for ASBA were infectious. She conveyed a feeling of excitement to everyone and continued to be a steady, reassuring presence in the organization. A forward-thinking leader, she got us through rough times and shared the best moments with all of us. We want Robin to be delighted as she moves into to the next chapter of her life. So we look forward to future ASBA adventures through teary eyes. Thanks Robin, for your willingness to surpass ordinary, hang on to the vision, and clear a path.
 —Susan T. Fisher, ASBA President, 2005-2007
Thank you, Robin for making ASBA what it is today! We so appreciate your dedication, positive attitude and tireless efforts over the past 13 years. Wishing you a happy retirement and many hours of painting.
—Catherine Watters, Member, ASBA Board of Directors since 2000
I take pride in having hired Robin.We met at the Philadelphia conference. It was instantly apparent that she had exactly the qualifications and personality to take on the development of ASBA. When the opportunity presented itself, I think we both leapt at this chance for Robin and ASBA to move forward.
—Carol E. Hamilton, ASBA President, 2001-2003

Click here to see Robin's retirement recognition page

  • Robin celebrating the opening of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew, 2008. From left to right, Robin Jess, Pandora Sellars, Stephen Hopper, Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Dr. Phillip Cribb, Marilyn Garber.
  • Robin exploring Burren in Ireland