WOC Trust Individual
A personal history from Peter R. Furniss
In 2009 the Trustees of the World Orchid Conference Trust designed a limited edition medal that
they could present to deserving individuals who had distinguished themselves in service to the orchid and/or
horticultural world through their professional or personal work. While the general feeling was that the medals
should go to people who had a history of long service, it was decided that medals could also be given to
individuals who gave dedicated service in a particular area since this would be a good way to show them the
appreciation they so richly deserve.
Orchid Conference in Singapore it was my great honor to be able to present the first of these medals to Dr.
Kiat Tan who exemplifies a lifetime of service to the orchid world. The Trustees had no trouble in selecting
Kiat as the individual whom they felt best represented everything for which the medal was conceived. I must
explain that, although Kiat is a WOC Trustee, the decision was made without his knowledge so it came as a
surprise to him when he received the medal.
It was not the first time that I have
presented Kiat with a prestigious medal. Many years ago, at the Orchid Society of South East Asia
75thAnniversary Banquet, it was my pleasure to give Kiat the American Orchid Society Gold
Medal of Achievement. During that presentation I outlined his many achievements in Singapore as well as those
when he lived in the United States.
Since Kiat returned to Singapore in the early 1980s he has excelled at making “Singapore a city
within a garden”. The remarkable changes that I have seen in my many trips to Singapore would not have taken place
without Kiat’s administrative excellence, accomplished leadership ability and managerial skills.
He has been the moving force behind the
Gardens by the Bay project - a multi-billion dollar horticultural masterpiece - as well as spearheading the bid for
Singapore to host the 20thWorld Orchid
Conference. His work on developing the very successful Singapore Garden Festivals gave orchidists the opportunity
to have “dress rehearsals” in preparation for the WOC. Each of these accomplishments would have proven monumental
to anyone else. To Kiat, it seems as if it was just part of his job.
Another medal went to someone who richly
deserves to be singled out for his role in the 20thWOC as well as
his long time service to the Orchid Society of South East Asia (OSSEA). John Elliott had the unenviable task of
heading up the conference portion of the WOC. I cannot imagine how many hours John spent identifying candidates to
fill out the outstanding array of speakers that were there as well as coordinating getting them all to Singapore
and scheduling the presentations along with all the other allied groups who met during the conference. Yes, he had
an extraordinary group of volunteers and professionals to help him but it always came down to “John” for the final
decisions. I’m sure that everyone agrees that this conference was superb.
Long before John was coerced into his
role with the WOC, he was extremely active in OSSEA and served as its President from 1997 until October 2012. I
know he is happy to now be the Immediate Past President but there’s no doubt his successor, Peggy Tan, will look to
him for advice and continued service. Amongst many other accomplishments during his tenure, he was editor of Orchid
Hybrids of Singapore (1893-2003) which details over 2,100 hybrids made in Singapore; was, for years, editor for the
Malayan Orchid Review, the magazine of OSSEA. He also chaired OSSEA judging for a long time. Under his able
leadership, the Society flourished.
A third medal went to Graham Smith for
his unstinting service to the WOC Trust. Many years ago the Trustees wanted to create a website so orchidists could
find out more about WOCs as well as being able to get information about hosting a WOC, the history of the
conferences, and links to other orchid sites. Once the site was put online it would also require management. With
the late Joyce Stewart as our liaison, we were able to convince Graham to do both jobs and do them as a
While the Trustees envision the medals
being announced only during World Orchid Conferences, they may decide that there are other appropriate times to do