(10 January 1892 — 31 October 1974)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has over 200 vascular plant and over 650 fungal specimens collected Alma Holland Beers. Without doubt many more will be found as we continue to catalog all our collections.
Alma Holland Beers was a frequent co-collector with Dr. William Chambers Coker and Nancy Eliason. In fact, on many labels Dr. Coker puts simply “Alma & Nancy” or even “the girls” as co-collectors.
Alma Leonora Holland was born January 10, 1892 in Moore County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Leonidas Holland and Inez Neglina Leach, both farmers. In 1917 she enrolled in summer session at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she took a botany course under Dr. William Chambers Coker. Impressed with the care and precision of her work, Dr. Coker asked Miss Holland to remain in the Botany Department as a “research assistant.” She was never given another title, but while bearing this one performed the duties of teacher, editor, librarian, translator, secretary, artist, and plant collector. She reported that she was so elated to receive this position that she burned her certificate for teaching in public schools.
She was the first woman hired by the Botany department as a research assistant. While in the employ of the Department, she also took occasional courses, earning her B.A. degree in 1925 and becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1941 she married Dr. Charles Dale Beers of the Zoology Department. She spent summers with him in Cold Springs, New York, to escape the North Carolina heat and humidity. In 1951, Mrs. Beers retired from the Botany Department, stating simply, “Henceforth I shall dig in my garden and raise flowers.” She passed away on October 31, 1974.
Alma was well-known within the department for her skills as an illustrator and contributed to most of the publications produced during her thirty-three year career. Holland designed “Carolina Moon” chinaware for the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. This chinaware was produced by
the Shenango China Company of New Castle, Delaware. She was also accomplished in Latin and French and aided faculty and students by translating works in those languages.
Ms. Holland Beers’ duties as a Research Assistant included serving as Executive Editor of the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society from 1946-1951; co-authoring books with Dr. William Chambers Coker; serving as caretaker of the Botany Department’s collection of books which later became the core of the John N. Couch Biology Library; illustrating numerous botanical works by Botany Department faculty; teaching several botany classes, including her favorite class which was about ferns; and serving as secretary, typist, and editor for Dr. William Chambers Coker.
The only biographical article on Alma Holland Beers (barring a few brief newspaper items) was written by Mr. William R. Burk of the Couch Biology Library. This appeared in the Spring, 1986 issue of the Friends of the UNC Herbarium Newsletter, pp. 7-8.
Alma Holland Beers and William Chambers Coker co-authored Stipitate hydnums of the Eastern United States. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1951 and Boletaceae of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1943.