A Horticultural Gem

Author: UTIA Advancement

Last Updated:

Category: Donor Stories

Sue Hamilton

For thirty-seven years, Sue Hamilton has helped the UT Gardens grow. In honor of her well-deserved retirement in December 2019, help us pay tribute to her unparalleled vision for the future, her unrelenting enthusiasm for learning , and her unmatched love of the Gardens.


“By sheer determination, Dr. Sue Hamilton massively transformed the Gardens from its focus on variety trail work into a public horticulture destination across the state that is enjoyed by thousands and thousands of people every year. Her leadership through the years supported, nurtured, and extensively grew the UT Gardens’ mission to expand educational, discovery, and outreach programming that impacts a very broad base of constituencies like never before. There’s an Asian proverb that says, ‘One generation plants the seeds; another gets the shade.’ No doubt Dr. Hamilton’s efforts planted lots of seeds that generations and generations to come will enjoy! Congratulations Dr. Sue, well done, and may your retirement be all you dreamed of and more!”

-Joe DiPietro, University of Tennessee President Emeritus

“Whether a student, a child, a volunteer, a colleague, and administrator, a master gardener, a custodian, the public, or anyone else, Sue inspires others to recognize their inherent value. If they need support identifying what their best might be and help in achieving it, Sue has always been there to offer guidance and encouragement, and to share her experience.

“The passion she exhibits in connecting people with plants, but more importantly, connecting herself with people and people with each other is evident in the long-term relationships she has maintained professionally and personally. She has instilled in others a love of nature and concern for the environment, a respect for learning and education, and a recognition for the need for compassion and caring with unmatched enthusiasm and optimism.

“If success is measured by the positive influence one has had on others and by the contributions on has made in bettering the world one lives in, then Sue Hamilton has achieved the pinnacle. For that, we should all be grateful because we share that world too.”

-James Newburn, Interim Director, UT Gardens, Knoxville

“Few people have planted as many seeds of inspiration in my life as Dr. Sue Hamilton. Among the lessons she has taught me over the last fifteen years is that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. A legacy of kindness, caring, and advocacy for others will follow Sue as she closes her office door for the last time at UT. She sees in others what they often don’t see in themselves. I am beyond grateful to have her as a mentor and friend.

“Sue, thank you for the passion you have shown over your career for both people and plants!”

-Andy Pulte, Undergraduate Coordinator and Faculty Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences

“Our paths crossed when I joined UTIA as Sue’s department head. It was then I learned about the trial gardens she and Doug Crater developed in the first half of the 1990s. In 1996, the late Don Williams was still working with students teaching landscape construction. Sue and Don worked together to improve what were then trial gardens and turn them into what we know today as the UT Gardens, Knoxville.

“Sue had a vision of what could be—the Beall Family Rose Garden, the Kitchen Garden, the Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Garden, and many other improvements. A benchmark event was being named the State Botanical Garden of Tennessee along with the UT Gardens in Jackson and Crossville.”

“Vision and leadership are rare qualities. Sue possesses them both and put them to use helping all of Tennessee to appreciate the herbaceous and wood ornamentals we both love.”

-Mary Albrecht, Professor and Former head, Department of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design