Volunteer Organization Board Bios

Lee Waggener Bio

Lee Waggener
RSABG Volunteer Board Secretary and Oak Notes Editor

Volunteering in a garden of California native plants seems like a good fit for a California native who has always lived within 40 miles of where I grew up in South Gate. My mother was a skilled gardener who could beautify any surroundings with plants. My earliest memories were of a small victory garden, then of camellias and azaleas, then of a rose garden.

My own interest in plants didn’t happen until I was a student at Pomona College and took a plant classification class for a science requirement. Predecessor Lyman Benson was a wonderful teacher who could inspire anyone to love finding a plant, identifying it and creating a pressed plant collection. Many of our class meetings were in the wash to the east of the college that was still wild and undeveloped at the time. What a refreshing break from sitting in a classroom on a beautiful Southern California day! I remember my first visit to the RSABG Herbarium and being quite surprised at finding a garden at the end of College Avenue. Maybe if I had taken his class my first year, I would have been a botany major instead of a music major. Who knows?

After graduation, teaching elementary school in Ontario and being a musician at the Claremont United Church of Christ took up most of my time and I visited the Garden only occasionally. After retirement I brought my grandson to a special event and ran into a long-time friend, Judy Whale, from school days in South Gate. Her words, “This is the best place in town to volunteer. You should try it!” stuck with me, and now I am a nature interpreter as well as a member of the Board of Volunteers.

My grandchildren help me volunteer when possible, and I’m hoping they develop a love of the Garden and an appreciation of the richness, variety and uniqueness of California native plants.

Janice Tsuma Bio

Janice Tsuma
RSABG Volunteer Vice President 2012-13


Imagine the courage of the nature interpreters! Waiting for them at the gates of RSABG was a whole class of mothers pushing strollers containing their three and four year old children! A couple decades ago, I was one of those mothers, and that tour was my first introduction to the Garden. It obviously made a positive impression on me. Over the years, I visited occasionally, and, when my growing family’s demands lessened and I discovered I had some extra time, I decided to respond to an advertisement in the local paper for new volunteers, and now I’ve just completed 10 years as a volunteer! I work in the Herbarium workroom on Monday mornings, lead school tours on Thursdays and am currently serving as vice president of the Volunteer Board.

I was a valley girl—a San Joaquin Valley girl. I grew up in the small town of Madera, and came south to attend California Lutheran University. After college, I taught for Los Angeles and Glendale School Districts for seven years before leaving the West Coast and accompanying my husband to Connecticut. After five years, employment opportunities returned us and our new daughter to southern California. The following years were spent raising our two children and managing the household.

When people ask about my activities at the Garden, I tell them that the volunteers are one of the nicest groups of people I have known, and that volunteering here provides so many opportunities to learn, share, and enjoy interacting in a beautiful setting. I am looking forward to an exciting year on the Board!

Shaunna Gygli Bio

Shaunna Gygli
RSABG Volunteer President 2012-13


Shaunna Gygli…who is that? I know many of you are wondering, and now the wait is over!

I grew up in a very small town of about 1,000 people in southeastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons. I hiked, skied and camped in this most beautiful area of Yellowstone National Park. I’ll bet many of you didn’t know that a slice of Yellowstone is in Idaho! It was here that my love of nature was nurtured. Even though I have lived in California for 50 years, I must get back to my mountains often.

After graduating from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in education, I moved to Northern California to begin my teaching career. My first year was as a fourth grade teacher where I learned about California’s diverse regions and how the first Californians used their natural resources so effectively. When I moved to Pomona in 1980, I increased my knowledge of native people and natural history by joining historical societies, becoming a docent at the Southwest Museum, and taking many classes at RSABG.

My teaching philosophy includes a strong belief in hands-on experiences for children. To this end, in 1989, I developed Bonita Unified School District’s Hands-on History Program for fourth graders. Even though I retired from the district eight years ago, (after 42 years) I continue to provide the Hands-on History field trips to over 700 students annually.

After retiring I traveled, read a lot, worked part time and became a docent at the Museum of the American West. And, in 2009, I became a volunteer at RSABG where I am a Nature Interpreter and where I volunteer at most special events. I was a member-at-large on the Volunteer Board. We have all made a conscious decision to volunteer our time and talent for various reasons. As for me, I volunteer at RSABG because I believe in our mission statement, and it is a way to pay back the valuable education my students and I received here over the years.

I was surprised and delighted by the opportunity to serve as your president. I look forward to getting to know each of you and to working together to increase awareness of The Garden’s unique programs and resources.

My life is continually enriched by the people that I have met and worked with here. I hope to meet you at the quarterly luncheon on September 14. I know that we volunteers don’t just work, we make it work!