Ruth Burnett: Silky Camellia

Silky Camellia (Stewartia malacodendron)

Silky camellia is one of the most beautiful early blooming native trees in the forest. This plant is somewhat rare and is most commonly seen along the coastal plain. It is well know for its copious production of white flowers with attractive purplish centers. As the tree ages, its bark exfoliates which can be quite striking over the winter months. This tree is somewhat difficult to find in nurseries and is not an easy plant to grow. It is considered a small tree or large shrub and will typically grow 10 to 20 feet tall with a similar spread. Its native range extends from Virginia to Florida and West to Texas (USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9).

Ruth Burnett

March 4, 1953 – June 14, 2023

Ruth Burnett spent her life in the service of others. She was smart and inquisitive, and she actively
encouraged those around her to strive to be their best selves – just as she herself did – by always
learning and growing and achieving. In every aspect of her life, Ruth was direct, honest, and determined;
she stood up for whom and what she believed in. A loyal and fun friend, Ruth laughed often and
infectiously, and she enjoyed sharing the people and things that she cared about. Van Landingham Glen
was one of her favorite places on the campus of UNC Charlotte, and she’d regularly bring coworkers to
join her for garden walks.

Ruth was a true champion of learning throughout her 20+ years as an employee of the State of North
Carolina, first working in elementary and middle schools in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County and later at
UNC Charlotte where she spent much of her career helping to develop and run the University’s Office of
Technology Transfer (currently Office of Research Commercialization and Development). Despite having
no formal training in the area, Ruth became a valued colleague, resource, and friend to faculty and staff
across campus and beyond. She earned a paralegal certificate, which enabled her to serve as patent
paralegal for the campus, and her expertise and skills led her to be tapped to manage the office as
acting director for a year while the University sought to fill the director’s position. She was also
recognized as a problem-solver by those who often needed her expertise to find ways to accomplish
tasks that were seemingly undoable because of budget restraints. Her coworkers knew Ruth would do
her best to find a way to make things happen, while always maintaining her integrity and following the

No matter her position, Ruth excelled in engaging faculty and students and connecting them with
opportunities to expand their knowledge and collaborative partnerships. As an example of her
commitment, she co-created UNC Charlotte’s Five Ventures Program (now called Charlotte Venture
Challenge), which was designed to help grow early-stage businesses being developed by students. Ruth
encouraged expanding the program beyond the UNC Charlotte community, especially reaching out to
smaller campuses in the UNC system.

Ruth was an engaging storyteller, especially when it came to talking about her family. She loved to share
stories about her husband, Doug; their daughters, Faith and Kandas; and her extended family in
Pennsylvania and elsewhere. But she especially delighted in talking about her grandchildren, Ronin and
Aven, and her cellphone was filled with happy photos of them enjoying daily life around Mooresville.
After retiring from UNC Charlotte in 2017, Ruth enjoyed doing the things she loved most: spending time
with her family, working in her flower gardens, and cooking delicious meals. She stayed in touch with
UNC Charlotte by attending campus events and through social events with her former colleagues and

Ruth Burnett left her mark on UNC Charlotte, and she will be greatly missed.