With great sadness, AIPH has announced the passing of Robert Mathis, former President of the Association from 1977 to 1991. He departed on 25 October 2023 in Bischwiller, Bas-Rhin (67), a département in France. Mr. Mathis was a highly respected figure in the international horticultural industry, and his contributions will be deeply missed by AIPH members and the wider horticultural community.
Born on 20 January 1929, Mr. Mathis, a trained horticultural engineer and graduate of the prestigious École Nationale d'Horticulture de Versailles, took over his father's ornamental plant nursery in Alsace after military service in Tunisia. Specializing in the production of roses and chrysanthemums, he and his wife, Mathilde, founded one of France's first garden centers in 1967. Mr. Mathis played a pivotal role in establishing the first quality standard for Pelargonium.
Exemplifying dedication to his profession, Mr. Mathis became President of the Union Régionale Horticole d'Alsace in 1975 and served as Deputy President of the National Federation of Horticulture and Nursery Producers (FNPHP) for many years. In 1987, he was elected President at the Bourg-en-Bresse Congress. His vision extended beyond Alsace, leading to his international involvement. Elected President of AIPH in 1977, he demonstrated a commitment to promoting horticulture globally.
The French Republic honored him with the titles of Commander in the Order of Agricultural Merit and Commander in the Order of National Merit. Former agriculture minister Michel Cointat presented the latter during AIPH's 52nd Annual Congress in Angers, France, in 2000.
Mr. Mathis believed strongly in the role of industry associations in sharing best practices and developing standards. Speaking about AIPH's role in the global horticultural community in 2008, he remarked, "I am persuaded that a handful of pioneers of the 1960s would be proud of the work already realized."
Pierre Mathis, Mr. Mathis' son, shared that his father had a generous heart and worked to unite people as a community. Mr. Mathis was passionate about understanding diverse perspectives and expanding AIPH membership globally. Fluent in French, German, and English, he felt it was his duty to learn words in the host country's language during his travels as AIPH's President.
Tim Briercliffe, AIPH's current Secretary General, expressed condolences, stating, "All AIPH members send our sincere condolences to the family of Robert Mathis. He served AIPH for a long period, between 1977 and 1991, and the association is indebted to him for the work he did during that period."
Mr. Mathis passed away 20 months after his wife, Mathilde. Survived by his four children, his loss is deeply felt in the horticultural industry.