Laudatio by Professor Werner Greuter
It is a very great pleasure for me to present OPTIMA’s highest award to our President. Receiving this Gold Medal (the genuine stuff!), which honours a lifetime’s achievement in promoting Mediterranean botany, is a crowning event in a botanist’s career; which of course does not imply that it should mark the end of a career that, I am sure, will go on for decades to come. I became acquainted with my dear friend Franco Raimondo in 1977, at the second OPTIMA Meeting in Florence, when he immediately and enthusiastically embraced the notion and goals of OPTIMA, to become member of its Executive Council in 1989, be elected Vice-President in 1995, and be our President for the last 9 years. He has organised the OPTIMA Meetings in Palermo in 1983, 2001, and 2013, being the only person to have hosted more than one such event. But his activities are not confined to OPTIMA, he has many more achievements to his credit. He has, for instance, served for two terms as President of the Italian Botanical Society, an association that exceeds OPTIMA in size and wealth if not prestige, and has contributed greatly, with his expertise and energy, to the prosperity of that Society. One great venture in Raimondo’s professional life is the plan – not yet achieved but actively pursued – of a renewed Herbarium Mediterraneum Panormitanum, an institution designed to play a pivotal role in Mediterranean botanical research. Jointly with his then boss Andrea Di Martino, he announced the idea to the scientific world, in 1977, at the first Jornadas de Taxonomía Vegetal in Sevilla. By then he had already convinced the Palermo Province to acquire buildings suitable for the purpose. With his awesome gift of fund-raiser he was quick to attract monies to endow an International Foundation “Pro Herbario Mediterraneo”, set up to support his project. Even though, as life goes, we are still struggling to see Raimondo’s high-flying plans completed, much has already been achieved. The buildings are there; they are progressively being equipped and made ready to receive and house Palermo’s herbaria, which since 2013 proudly bear the designation “OPTIMA Herbarium”. These collections await your visit to study them – and also your contribution in kind: of plants and books. I take the opportunity to thank all those, here present or not, who have contributed by their donation of books and plant specimens to the herbarium and library of OPTIMA, and will hopefully continue to do so. I could spend hours on end speaking of Raimondo’s scientific merits, which are the basic reason for the present award. He has published more than 400 papers and dozens of books. I will content myself to mention two particularly significant contributions of his. The first, unsurprisingly, concerns his home country Sicily – really a country of its own, even though it belongs to Italy. Franco is Sicilian to the core. Although he has travelled abroad, has even been visiting professor in Somalia three times, Sicily, and within Sicily, Palermo, has always been his home. His roots are in Palermo Province, in Castelbuono, a borough in the Madonie mountains that may feel honoured today along with himself. The work I have in mind is the “Catalogue of plants growing in Sicily”, a volume of almost 600 pages published in 2007, of which Raimondo is only the second author but which he has written in large part himself. The second item I want to highlight is special on more than one account. He as the author, as may happen only to the prominent, did not know of it until the day when it was published. It is a sizeable book, dedicated to him on the occasion of his 70th birthday, assembling over 100 introductions, prefaces and dedications that he wrote to the books of others. The title reads “Contributions to the promotion of the culture of botany”, and it is indeed related to the entire culture surrounding botanical sciences. The prefaced books, while partly botanical, are also devoted to the arts, to biography, are reprints of classical texts or exhibition catalogues – organising exhibits being Raimondo’s cherished hobby. The overwhelming variety of the prefaced books stands for Raimondo’s own, vast scientific and cultural achievements. Franco, I wish you many more years of endeavour, success, and happiness.