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A memorial celebration of the life of Carl F. Gortzig '52 will be held Sunday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center of Cornell Botanic Gardens. 

Gortzig, professor emeritus and chair of the former Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, died June 2 in Ithaca at age 87. Gortzig served as the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations (now Cornell Botanic Gardens) from 1993-95, after a previous stint as acting director in 1989, and four years as chair of the Plantations Advisory Board from 1980-84.


In addition to his enduring support for the Botanic Gardens, Gortzig was devoted to the field of horticulture, working closely with the floriculture industry in New York state. His efforts were recognized in 1989 with the granting of the George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture, the highest honor of the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association. He also cared deeply about the students he taught and advised, and in 2002 a former advisee, Joanna Beitel ’92, established the Carl Gortzig scholarship in his honor.

Gortzig recognized the importance of local cultural organizations, and served in leadership positions on the boards of the History Center in Tompkins County, The Tompkins County Public Library, and the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.  He and his wife Jean were also devoted fans of the Cornell men’s basketball team.

He served in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant from 1952-54; taught biology, botany and math at the McKinley Vocational High School in Buffalo from 1954-55; worked as an Erie County associate agricultural agent from 1955-64; and was employed by Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an admissions counselor from 1957 -58. He joined Cornell’s faculty in 1965, earned tenure in 1971 and was promoted to full professor in 1978.

He is survived by his devoted and loving wife of 55 years, Jean.

Those planning to attend the memorial are asked to respond in advance to dr14 [at] with the subject heading Gortzig Memorial. Memorial gifts may be directed to Cornell Botanic Gardens.

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