Roddy Ray, 1977 Horticulture graduate, was selected for Haywood Community College’s Outstanding Alumni Award for 2013. The award is presented to a graduate who has attained distinction and success in his or her career field or through community service.

Ray is the Grounds and Landscape Manager at Lake Junaluska Assembly. She has worked at the lake from more than 20 years.  

Ray’s passion for growing plants stems all the way back to childhood. She remembers working with both her grandmothers in flower beds and gardens. She would do the work for money to buy supplies for her horse but while earning those funds, she learned to appreciate growing things and another seed was planted besides what was put in the ground.

This seed grew into a passion that has served Ray well for a rewarding career.

A place well-known for its beauty, Lake Junaluska Assembly has thousands of visitors from all over the world each year to enjoy the results of Ray’s landscaping team’s hard work.

But before working at the lake, Ray continued her enjoyment with growing things at Tuscola High School where she worked in the greenhouse as a student. This cemented her desire to have a career in the field. Ray enrolled at Haywood Community College in the horticulture program after graduating from high school and completed the program in 1977.

From there, Ray started her own business where she operated Green Hill Greenery Nursery in Rutherford County. When she moved back to Haywood County, she sold the business and gained more experience in the field by working at Zeb’s Bloomers, Waynesville Country Club, and with the Downtown Waynesville Association.

Then began Ray’s career at Lake Junaluska. At the lake, she and her team grow all the annuals and perennials that are used in the landscaping and manage the Rose Walk and other gardens on the grounds. 

Lake Junaluska’s Rose Walk was featured in the American Rose Annual 2003. An excerpt from this article says, “A major key to the success of the Rose Walk is the tireless effort expended by Roddy who truly loves roses and tends them with faithful consistency.” The rose garden features about 150 varieties that are pruned each week during season.

The most recent creation at the lake is a Biblical Garden. It features plants that are mentioned in the Bible such as figs and pomegranates. This garden has been a few years in the making. When completed, each Biblical plant will have a Bible reference inscribed with it.

In 2011, Haywood Vocational Opportunities presented Ray with the Marketing Association for Rehabilitation Centers Award.

Donna Trull, Employment Specialist for Haywood Vocational Opportunities, says, “Roddy is most cooperative in hiring and working with employees with disabilities and disadvantages. Roddy is very accommodating to employees with disabilities as her kindness and compassion shows. Her willingness to work and teach these skills to others with such a caring heart and gentle spirit is a true asset and testament of outstanding leadership to both her community and to the workplace.”       

According to Ray, it is especially fulfilling to work with people with disabilities because she enjoys their eagerness to learn. “When they create something, they take ownership of it,” she explains. “When they see a plant grow, it just draws them out.”

 “Some people have a talent to do things that not only benefit their workplace but also to bring beauty and honor to their community,” says Trull.

A stroll around Lake Junaluska confirms this for Ray from visitors and residents alike.