Former AIPH President Robert Mathis dies at 95

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Robert Mathis, former President of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) from 1977 to 1991. He passed away on 25 October 2023 in Bischwiller, Bas-Rhin (67) a département in France. Mr Mathis was a well-respected figure in the international horticultural industry, and AIPH members and the wider horticultural community will deeply miss his contributions.

Mr Mathis was born on 20 January 1929 and graduated from the prestigious École Nationale d’Horticulture de Versailles. He was a trained horticultural engineer and took over his father’s ornamental plant nursery in Alsace after military service in Tunisia. Mr Mathis specialised in the production of roses and chrysanthemums. He founded one of France’s first garden centres in 1967 with his wife, Mathilde, and was the driving force behind the first quality standard for Pelargonium.

Mr Mathis’ dedication to the profession was exemplary, and he became President of the Union Régionale Horticole d’Alsace in 1975. He also served within the National Federation of Horticulture and Nursery Producers (FNPHP) as Deputy President for many years, and in 1987, he was elected President at the Bourg-en-Bresse Congress.

His vision and commitment were not limited to the borders of Alsace, as he also worked at an international level. In 1977, he was elected president of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), demonstrating his desire to promote horticulture globally.

The French Republic bestowed him the honorary titles of Commander in the Order of Agricultural Merit (Commandeur dans l’ordre du Mérite Agricole) and Commander in the Order of National Merit (Commandeur dans l’ordre National du Mérite). Former agriculture minister Michel Cointat presented Mathis with the latter during AIPH 52nd Annual Congress in Angers, France, in 2000.

Mr Mathis was convinced that industry associations have a vital role to play in the sharing of best practices and the development of standards. When asked for a report about AIPH’s role in the global horticultural community on the Association’s 60th anniversary in 2008, he commented, “I am persuaded that a handful of pioneers of the 1960s would be proud of the work already realised. And they would also be happy to learn that their initial plans continue to be carried out in the same spirit of friendship and freedom, not forgetting the efficiency of an international organisation representing industry professionals in five continents.”

Speaking to FloraCulture International about his father’s passing, Mr Mathis’ son, Pierre, describes his father as a person with a very generous heart. “He always tried his best to make people feel comfortable and unite them as a community.”

Pierre remembers how his father never missed an opportunity to understand better a range of external and international views that could contribute to broader perspectives of green professionals. Expanding AIPH membership beyond Europe, Pierre says, was an issue close to his father’s heart, and he was delighted to see how, under AIPH approval, the International Horticultural Expos of Osaka in Japan in 1990 and Kunming in China in 1999, were highly successful. He was fluent in French, German, and English. Pierre says his father felt it was his duty to learn some words about the countries he visited, and as AIPH’s President, he often finished his speeches in the host country’s language.

AIPH’s current Secretary General, Tim Briercliffe, said, “All AIPH members send our sincere condolences to the family of Robert Mathis. He served AIPH for a long period, between 1977 and 1991, and the association is indebted to him for the work he did during that period.”

Mr Mathis passed away just 20 months after his wife, Mathilde. His four children survive him, and the horticultural industry deeply feels his loss.

Tim Briercliffe Secretary General United Kingdom