Our History

Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund) was established via a merger of the Research Trust of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the National Arborist Foundation of the National Arborist Association, now the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Organized as a charitable trust in the state of Illinois on July 20, 2002, the roots of TREE Fund go deep into the arboriculture profession and industry.

TREE Fund’s mission is to identify and fund programs that support the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in arboriculture and urban forestry.

In addition to funding scientific research related to tree care and urban forestry, TREE Fund also supports student scholarship in this area and environmental educational programs for children and adults.

Milestones in Arboriculture

Reliable information about tree healthcare in this country was scarce until the beginning of the 20th century. This list was compiled by Hyland Johns, now retired from Asplundh Tree Expert Co., using sources cited below. It is not intended as a comprehensive history of the industry.

  • 1901 – John Davey published “The Tree Doctor” and later founded The Davey Tree Expert Company, establishing its laboratory and tree school at Kent, OH.
  • 1907 – Bartlett Tree Experts is founded by F.A. Bartlett at Stamford, CT.
  • 1924 – First national conference of commercial arborists, researchers and educators held at Stamford, CT for 35 attendees.
  • 1926 – A permanent organization, the National Shade Tree Conference (NSTC) is established at the industry’s 3rd conference. Several resolutions, including one for research, are adopted by the NSTC – a name formally adopted the following year.
  • 1932 – First use of term ‘arboriculture’ in America by Charles Irish in his “Highlights in the Early History of Arboriculture,” although that term was used in England over 300 years ago.
  • 1935 – “Arborists News” was the first monthly periodical of NSTC, with the first sponsored research project on lightning protection awarded the following year.
  • 1946 – Creation of “The Memorial Research Fund” by NSTC, with a $2,000 sponsored research project awarded to Ohio State University (OSU).  Many other projects followed in the ‘50s and ‘60s at OSU and other universities.
  • 1960 – The NSTC becomes the International Shade Tree Conference (ISTC).
  • 1972 – Establishment of a tax-exempt “Memorial Research Trust Fund”– proposed by O.J. Anderson and John Duling
    — “Book of Remembrance” for memorial donations to research presented to the International Shade Tree Conference (pre-cursor to ISA) by ISTC President and Mrs. O.J. Anderson.
  • 1973 – Establishment of Arboriculture Research and Education Academy (AREA), a special interest group serving educators and researchers.
  • 1976 – Establishment of the ISA Research Trust.– Five research grants ($500 each) awarded in its first year.
  • 1985 – Establishment of the National Arborist Foundation (NAF) by The National Arborist Association (now Tree Care Industry Association) to fund scholarships in arboriculture and promote career opportunities in the field.
  • 1986 – A planned giving campaign published in the Journal of Arboriculture facilitates the creation of an endowment fund for research and education.
  • 1990 – Journal of Arboriculture publishes a proposal for collaboration between ISA Research Trust and NAF to develop cooperative promotion and innovation in arboriculture through research and education.
  • 1991- In its first 15 years the Trust awards 162 grants totaling $250,000.
  • 1992 – First Tour des Trees: Seattle WA to Oakland CA (1,000 miles)– Organized by Jim Clark and John Goodfellow as a cycling fundraiser for research and education and a means of increasing public awareness of proper tree care.
    — 13 riders raised $89,000.
  • 1995 – Creation of “Hyland R. Johns Grant Program” for research grants of $5,000 or more.– Smaller awards are designated “John Z. Duling Grants” in recognition of a gift from Duling’s estate.
  • 2002 – ISA Research Trust and NAF officially merge, resulting in the creation of Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund).
  • Since its inception in 2002, TREE Fund has issued more than 300 awards, totaling over $5.4 million.

ISA Research Trust Founders:

John Duling (IN)
Yvon Fournier (Trois Rivieres, Quebec)
Gene Himelick (IL)
Jack Rogers (CA)
Hyland Johns (PA)



Robert Felix Memorial Fund:

Robert Felix served for over 25 years as Executive Vice President of the National Arborist Association (now Tree Care Industry Association). The Robert Felix Memorial Fund was created following his death in 1996 to honor his work and contributions to the industry.


  1. Memory Lane – A History of ISA
  2. Arboriculture – History and Development in North America (Campana)
  3. Trust Agreement of Tree Research & Education Endowment Fund, established August 7, 1976 and amended
  4. ISA Annual Report for 2005-2006
  5. Arborist News:  June, 1995, April 2002 et al
  6. Journal of Arboriculture:  February, 1986, August, 1991 et al
  7. Miscellaneous correspondence and personal files