Anne Shenk, who launched educational programming at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in 1984, was presented a lifetime achievement award from the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia.

Members of the alliance joined staff members at the garden to present the Eugene Odum Lifetime Service Award to Shenk. She is the 12th recipient of the award since 2001.

“I’m very surprised,” Shenk said. “I had no idea people were coming today. It feels nice to be acknowledged by colleagues, to see my work acknowledged in that way.”

Shenk plans to retire later this year following more than three decades of service. She was the lone member of the education staff when she arrived in Athens in November 1984.

Today there are three people on the garden’s education staff, overseeing more than 200 programs that register more than 10,000 people each year. Classes are taught both to UGA students and all ages of the general public.

“Anne has given us this incredible professionalism and links into the university,” said Wilf Nicholls, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “She really has built a really strong bridge with the (UGA) Odum School of Ecology and education. She’s really developed professionalized education here and taken it one step further than just the general public.”

Shenk holds degrees from the Universities of Rhode Island and Colorado. Before arriving in Athens, the New Jersey native taught in the Peace Corps, ran an environmental education center in Rhode Island and taught a pre-college program at the State University of New York. She helped form the Environmental Education Alliance in 1992 and was the organization’s president in 2005 and 2006.

“We started basically just trying to figure out how to reach people (at the botanical garden),” Shenk said. “Now, we really are doing important work with three-year-olds up to any age.”