Waller Family Greenhouse Endowment Honors Former Botany Professor

April 25, 2013

Last week, preceding the public lecture of the 37th annual Waller Lecture Series, friends of the Biological Sciences Greenhouse gathered to acknowledge and celebrate the multi-generational gifts from many members of the Adolph Waller family, an effort that was led by Waller's granddaughter Andi Waller and her husband, Dr. Kelly Kelleher, that made a new greenhouse endowment a reality.

"The family is keeping alive the memory of Dr. Adolph Waller in this working classroom. It will serve our undergraduate students and inspire the next generation of biologists, something that we believe Dr. Waller would be pleased to see,” said Joan Leonard, greenhouse manager.

Cheers went up as Andi Waller officially opened the new Adolph E. Waller Memorial Greenhouse Classroom.

“Their investment in our greenhouse program here at Ohio State will carry on Dr. Waller’s legacy for years to come and benefit generations who come through here,” Leonard, said. “Andi, her husband, Kelly Kelleher, and the rest of the family see this gift as a way to honor the memory of Dr. Waller in a way that will benefit both current and future students.”

“I am so grateful for the Waller family’s support of this facility. The Biological Sciences Greenhouse is one of our most valuable assets; it provides service to all three university functions: research, education, and outreach – and it benefits not only Department of Molecular Genetics’ research, but Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology scholarship as well,” said Anita Hopper, professor and chair, Department of Molecular Genetics.

The Annual Waller Lecture Series was established by a bequest in Waller’s will. He stated that he wanted the lecture series to be a forum for prominent scientists to discuss leading issues in plant sciences. Further, he specified that it be organized and run by department (then botany, now molecular genetics) graduate students. They have done so for 37 years now, honoring his memory and promoting their field.

Waller Greenhouse Door


Adolph E. Waller was a legend around campus and the environs of the Botany and Zoology Building at the corner of Neil and 12th Avenue, informally known as B&Z, renamed Jennings Hall in 2002. Its renovation, completed in 2007, includes a native Ohio species learning-living courtyard that Waller would undoubtedly approve of.

Waller received a PhD from Ohio State in 1918, was a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Botanical Gardens in England, and then returned to Columbus where he served on Ohio State’s faculty for 45 years (1919-1964).

An outstanding teacher and field botanist, his field trips to Fairfield and Hocking counties were highlights for his students. He is remembered for encouraging his students to pursue graduate education—at a time when few sought graduate degrees.

Waller was devoted to promoting scholarship in his field and published, authored and co-authored numerous publications including, A Guide to Ohio Plants.

In the 1930’s, Waller's investigations of Xenia in Maize led him to study the history and culture of the early Maya in Central America. His travels to that region sparked his interest in examining the cultural significance of the development of maize as a Western Hemisphere agricultural crop.

His many contributions to science and humanity included work to increase food production during WWI, efforts to control flooding of Ohio’s Miami River Valley using native grasses, and his studies of the impact of air pollution from copper smelters on arid land crop production in the Salt Lake Basin.

Waller loved gardens; he designed and planted many gardens on campus, and served as the curator of the University Botanical Gardens for 15 years.

The garden he may have loved most, however; was the one he planted near the Botany and Zoology building that contained the Irises he grew for genetic studies on their hybridization and propagation. He was a pioneer and well-recognized authority in this area.

Waller’s scholastic interest and activities extended beyond the field of botany into the areas of history and biography.  Much ahead of his time and a visionary thinker, he developed two important new upper-level courses--in economic botany, and in the history of botany.

Group at Waller Greenhouse Dedication


Waller was known for his gift of friendship and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances. It has been written about him that, “He commanded respect and affection and could discourse in depth about the arts, literature and music, as well as science.”*

Following retirement, he served as a consultant to the Columbus Laboratories of Battelle Memorial Institute for several years.

*From former colleague (now deceased) Botany Professor Emeritus Bernard S. Meyer’s book: A History of the Botany Department at the Ohio State University: the First 100 Years