James Arnold Society Members Roberta Apfel and Bennett Simon

When Dr. Roberta (Robbie) Apfel and her husband Dr. Bennett Simon contemplated retirement in the late 1990s, Jamaica Plain and the Arnold Arboretum beckoned. Though they had visited often for years, a burgeoning interest in plants and nature made our landscape an increasingly personal and enriching destination. “It felt like this was a chance to learn more about the Arboretum and get to know it better,” Robbie recalls.

As a teacher, Robbie was invigorated by the opportunities presented by the Arboretum’s volunteer programs, first training as a docent tour guide and later joining the corps of volunteer guides who facilitate the Field Study Experiences for elementary students in Boston Public Schools. As a docent, Robbie’s tours have mirrored her own growing knowledge of the plant kingdom, from her fascination for conifers (“Conifers in Winter”) and dwarfed plants (“Bonsai Matching”) to researching trees as cultural and literary touchstones (“Trees Inspire”). “I love giving tours because I like meeting new people. It’s a great way to share, we end up learning so much from each other.”

James Arnold Society members Bennett Simon and Roberta Apfel at the Hunnewell Building
James Arnold Society members Bennett Simon and Roberta Apfel at the Hunnewell Building. Jon Hetman

After more than twenty years as members, Robbie and Bennett express astonishment at how much the Arboretum has contributed to their own sense of nature and world. “The Arboretum has been such a great place for us,” she continues, “there’s always something new to discover. It’s a constant delight and always a learning experience when we’re here.” Bennett agrees, noting that the Arboretum’s work aligned with their shared concern over our rapidly changing world. “Being involved with the Arboretum,” he says, “has transformed our view of ecology and the environment—it’s really been an eye-opener for us to climate issues.”

“That connects with our wish to support the Arboretum,” says Robbie. “We are very concerned about what’s happening with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, and the Arboretum is working to combat that on so many levels.” Thinking of the Arboretum and the global challenges their grandchildren face, Robbie and Bennett set up a charitable gift annuity that provides them income while promising a legacy to benefit the Arboretum and its critical work. “It is gratifying to have commitments and to make investments in the places we think are important,” says Bennett. “This is a place we care about.”

With the establishment of their gift annuity for the Arboretum, Robbie and Bennett are recognized as members of the James Arnold Society for Planned Giving. If you too are inspired by the potential to invest in the future of the Arboretum through your estate planning or seek help with bequest language or giving options, please contact our Institutional Advancement office by email or call 617.384.5766.