PGMS 2023 annual conference recap

The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) annual conference, “Transform,” was held October 17-20 in Louisville, Kentucky. PGMS hosted hundreds of grounds professionals and featured interactive programs, educational seminars on the timeliest topics and access to the Equip Expo. The Green Star Awards were celebrated at the Society’s Awards Celebration with the announcement of the 2023 Green Star Awards winners and the 2023 Professional Awards recipients.

Board of directors

PGMS board

PGMS elected and installed Roger Conner, CGM, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, as its new president. As the 102nd grounds management professional to hold the office, Conner succeeds Bruce DeVrou, CGM, of Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In addition to Conner, PGMS members elected Michael Gildea, CGM, of the Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, as president-elect. Donald Bottger, CGM, of the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California, was elected vice-president; and Vincent Jagodzinski, CGM, of SBD Outdoor in Valley City, Ohio, was elected treasurer.

The regional directors are as follows: North East Regional Director, Dallas Cott, CGM, of Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania; North Central Regional Director, Phil Richey of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana; Northwest Regional Director, Christopher Hall, CGT, of Richland School District in Richland, Washington; South East Regional Director, Jimmy Viars, CGM, of Gloucester County Public Schools in Gloucester, Virginia; South Central Regional Director, Aaron Martinez, CGM, of CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, Texas; and Southwest Regional Director, Sandra Obenour-Dowd of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

The directors at large include Brandon Haley, CGM, of SSC Services for Education in Moody, Alabama; Bill Quade, CGM, of The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; and Bedia Collins, CGM, CGT, of Fayette County Board of Education in Lexington, Kentucky.

Roger Phelps of Stihl in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Joel Spies of Rainbow Ecosciece in Minnetonka, Minnesota, will serve as the supplier member representatives. Kelly Kopp of Utah State University in Logan, Utah, is the educator representative.



PGMS Goatley

The PGMS Gold Medal is given to an individual or entity to recognize them for outstanding and long-term achievements and/or contributions to the green industry. PGMS recognized Dr. Goatley’s dedication to the green industry and mentorship of future industry leaders. Starting his career with degrees in Argronomy and Crop Science and earning his Ph.D. in Crop Science, he now develops and delivers current educational and outreach programs to all segments of the turfgrass industry. A large portion of his professional time has been devoted to outreach in the area of urban nutrient management and he was instrumental in the development of the first-ever urban nutrient management planning certification and testing program. He is a very active advisor and participant in the Master Gardener Volunteer program, devoted to urban water quality protection called Healthy Virginia Lawns. He has authored books, including multiple editions of Sports Field: Design, Construction, and Maintenance, and has been published in numerous industry journals. PGMS is proud to recognize his profound influence on the industry’s future by laying the groundwork for the success and innovation of tomorrow’s leaders through education and professional development.


PGMS Kovolyan

The Special Award of Distinguished Service recognizes outstanding service from a board or committee member to acknowledge outstanding service for an individual that goes above and beyond. Joe Kovolyan, CGM, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee has served as president of the PGMS, with 10 years of service on the national board, represented PGMS on the GIE Committee for several years and emceed the annual awards program. He was the northwest regional director and helped to develop the first branch in the northwest region. He has also been involved in the Green Star Awards and helped to develop PGMS’s 2017 compensation survey. Kovolyan became the 163rd grounds professional to receive PGMS’ Certified Grounds Manager (CGM) designation.


PGMS Haley

Each year, the PGMS president is asked to give a President’s Award to a member they feel have shown outstanding service and contributions to the Society. This year, President Bruce DeVrou, CGM, honored Brandon Haley, CGM, of SSC Services for Education in Moody, Alabama. Haley was recognized for being active in PGMS at both the local and national levels. He has served as the certification chair and was instrumental in leading updates to the format of the Certified Grounds Manager Application exam. He actively promotes the benefits of certification and PGMS membership, was the Georgia branch president, has been a Green Star Awards judge, has presented at both the annual conference and presented webinars. He serves as a member of the Education committee, has been southeast regional director and is currently a director at large on the national board.

2023 Green Star Award Winners

PGMS honored several grounds professionals with awards as part of its Annual Awards Celebration that took place October 19.


The University of Arizona (Honor)

Athletic grounds are some of the most unique across the country. The fields and facilities are covered in the historic red brick which pays homage to the campus’ historical look. The athletic grounds are spread out over 3 miles across campus. Football, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball and softball are the sports within the University campus boundaries. Baseball, soccer, and track facilities can be found off campus. No matter the distance from campus, the fields and grounds are provided a high attention of detail to ensure the place is glowing like a true oasis in the desert.



Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a multiprogram research laboratory managed by UT-Battelle, LLC for the US Department of Energy. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan project, ORNL delivers scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs needed to realize solutions in energy and national security and provide economic benefit to the nation. As the DOE’s largest science laboratory, safety and sustainability are important values, both of which are practiced with great pride in terms of grounds maintenance at ORNL.

SCHOOL GROUNDS (K-12, Technical School, Community Colleges):


Henderson State University was founded in 1890 in Arkadelphia, AR and currently has an undergraduate enrollment of 2,500 students. The campus sits on 156 acres with 44 acres of turf featuring several different varieties of warm season grasses, and over 5 acres of ornamental beds with many of them filled with beautiful blooms of knock out roses and several colorful crepe myrtle trees. There are 10,000 square feet of beds that are changed out twice annually with over 9,000 red and white seasonal annuals to match the school colors.


Since 1972, Nord Anglia Education has been a global leader in private education, boasting 81 schools across 32 countries and educating approximately 700,000 students worldwide. Nestled on expansive 30-acre campuses, the schools are enveloped by lush landscapes featuring warm-season grasses such as Saint Augustine and Bermuda, which create inviting backdrops for students’ educational journey. Ornamental beds adorned with vibrant seasonal flowers, including knock-out roses and colorful crepe myrtle trees, greet visitors at every turn, artfully changed twice a year.


Richland School District is a community that deeply believes in service, hard work, the joy of learning and the importance of helping the next generation be ready for the future. From taking care of the day-to-day maintenance of the schools and grounds to overseeing the construction of new facilities, the Support Services Department works hard to provide clean and safe facilities for all.



The horticulture staff at Pennsylvania College of Technology is always looking to incorporate landscape features relating to programs offered at Penn College. The Automotive Restoration program was the inspiration for the antique truck water feature is an excellent way to highlight the entrance to the building where the program is housed.

UNIVERSITY & COLLEGE GROUNDS – Small (0 – 200 acres):


Aurora University is a four-year private, nonprofit, accredited higher education institution offering excellence in education. Founded in 1893 in Mendota, IL, the campus relocated to Aurora in 1912, which is the second largest city in Illinois (located approx. 45 miles from Chicago). Sustainable practices at Aurora include the rain garden outside Eckhart Hall, providing a flower-rich habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife, and green roof management of the campus’ STEM building.


Founded in 1846, Taylor University is of the oldest non-denominational school in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Key features of the rural campus include: 600 acres of woods, trails, a cross-country course, farmland, and a 30-acre arboretum.


The University of Redlands is a liberal arts college founded in 1907. The campus compromises 160 acres of detailed landscape that is maintained by experienced and knowledgeable Grounds Department employees. It has been a part of Tree Campus Higher Education for over 15 years and is one of the few schools on the West Coast to have held this designation for so long. The campus has over 3,200 trees with 61 different species.



The Texas Christian University campus is a cozy, intimate respite from the surrounding Fort Worth hustle and bustle. The 300 acres of campus grounds are carefully manicured to create a consistent, comfortable, walk-able site for the campus community to enjoy year-round. Most streets and sidewalks throughout the campus are shaded by the mature canopies of massive Live Oak trees, creating an idyllic setting for a campus stroll. The campus grounds are maintained by a dedicated crew of landscape professionals, many of whom have 20 or more years of experience caring for the campus.


Texas Woman’s University System (TWU), first established in 1901, is known for its contributions and leadership in numerous critical fields of education. TWU offers an education at a public institution cost with the feeling of a private university. The landscape on the Denton and Dallas campuses is managed by in-house Landscape Operations and is fastidiously planned, cultivated and pruned to support the Campus Master Plan. Being located in north Texas, the Denton landscaping includes a plethora of native trees, such as live oak and pecan, as well as several types of flowering trees, bushes and shrubs.



Duke University is a sprawling 8,700-acre campus situated among the Carolina pines of Durham, NC. Over 7,000 acres are dedicated to research and environmental study in its very own forest. In addition to the forest, Duke is also home to the highly acclaimed Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the premier Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. From its inception, the Duke family put a high emphasis on the landscape and ensuring that the forest in and around campus would be protected and valued for future generations to enjoy.


Utah State University is located in northern Utah in what is considered a high mountain desert. The campus has close to 8,000 trees, 100 acres of manicured grass, 47 acres of flower and shrub beds, and hundreds of acres of hardscape, ponds, streams, and naturalized areas. The University and grounds have evolved into an amazing space for students to learn and for the community to gather, and is a recognized leader in innovation, conservation, and sustainability practices.


West Texas A&M University sits in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, spanning over 423 acres of managed APPA 1 and 2 landscapes. The SSC Services for Education Grounds Team manages approximately 350 acres on the main campus, including eight synthetic turf fields and a 70-acre cross-country course.



Georgia Institute of Technology’s Landscape Services department is responsible for the maintenance of grounds and landscape for the continuously evolving 426-acre main campus, located in the heart of midtown Atlanta. The department seeks to achieve its goal of responsible and sustainable environmental stewardship by maintaining an integrated, ecologically based landscape. The department strives to provide an attractive and safe campus for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to study, work, and live in comfort.


Southern Methodist University is a private university just north of Dallas, Texas providing unique access to a major municipality while keeping a small-town feel. The landscape is designed around the concept of providing the students, faculty and staff an environment where they can learn, play and relax with the knowledge they are in a safe place and in a place where they can succeed.



Located in a highly urban setting, Georgia Tech is faced with several challenges pertaining to wood waste. Cities and states around the country have incorporated new policies into their forestry management plans to efficiently manage influxes of urban wood waste. Since the overall goal of urban forest management is sustainability, policies related to urban wood waste, such as treecycling, aim to minimize environmental impact. These treecycling policies often result in urban wood reuse programs. Instead of ending up in a landfill, salvaged wood may be milled into lumber, utilized for bioenergy, or incorporated into the construction of log homes.  A prime example of Georgia Tech’s treecycling program features salvaged wood from storm-felled trees on campus. The wood was stored outside a warehouse, transported to Eutree – a “forest-free” wood manufacturer – where it was kiln-dried, milled, and planed. This recycled wood was then used in the construction of the stairways in The Kendeda Building.

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