Milly Acharya, 1951-2019

milly (Urmila) acharya, local botanical artist, teacher, friend, and neighbor, died at home February 27, 2019. Born March 31, 1951 in Patna, India, she received a B.A. with Honors from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University in 1969. After a brief stint of teaching in Delhi, in 1978 she enrolled in the doctoral program Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University where she completed all coursework and defended her dissertation proposal. In 1991 she received her M.A. in Education from Syracuse University.

She came to Ithaca in 1986 where she began to illustrate for Cornell University and Ithaca College publications, including the re-telling and illustration of two published children’s books. While milly would temporarily move on to a position as a cataloger for Cornell University Libraries, she found her true calling in illustration; specifically, botanical illustration utilizing time-honored conventions and traditions.

In these watercolor illustrations, milly strove to provide viewers with an inexhaustible wealth of visual information. She possessed the unique ability to portray her specimens with absolute technical precision while simultaneously expressing the very essence of the plant itself. As a result, her illustrations very nearly illuminate themselves, yet reward the viewer with detail worthy of inspection through a magnifying glass (one was always at hand at any of her gallery showings). Her artistic excellence was recognized many times throughout her career through numerous awards including the Diane Bouchier Artist Award for Excellence in Botanical Art from the American Society of Botanical Artists.  milly continued to fuse her passions for teaching and art throughout her career, teaching numerous classes where she shared her skill and enthusiasm for illustration until just prior to her passing.

A large community of family, friends and neighbors mourn milly’s passing. Those who knew her are invited to a celebration of her life at the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center in the Cornell Botanic Gardens on May 19, 2019 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.