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Administration, Nonprofit and Social Impact, Program Leadership

Vice President of Horticulture & Landscape

  • Mount Auburn Cemetery
  • Boston, MA

This position has been filled.

Mount Auburn Cemetery seeks a strategic, ambitious, innovative, and dynamic leader to be their Vice President of Horticulture & Landscape (VPH). Reporting to the President, the VPH will provide strategic and operational leadership and be the primary advocate and champion for Mount Auburn as a beautiful, serene, environmentally sustainable place of horticultural excellence that is relevant and accessible to the broadest possible audience and become an outstanding resource to professionals in the fields of horticulture, conservation, and beyond.  The VPH will play a key role in developing and implementing strategies that advance the cemetery’s efforts to be a high-performance team that is fueled by a skilled, engaged, diverse workforce with a vibrant and inclusive culture.

This is an exciting time to join the leadership team of the Mount Auburn Cemetery as their new President, Matthew Stephens, builds his leadership team. This role is one of three leadership opportunities that will contribute their talents and energy towards the new vision planning, landscape design, and sustainability initiatives that are part of the exciting re-imagining of the potential of the Mount Auburn Cemetery as a place of peace, reflection, art, culture, beauty, and inspiration.

About Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery inspires all who visit, comforts the bereaved, and commemorates the dead in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Mount Auburn, the nation’s premier garden cemetery, provides innovative and comprehensive end-of-life services while being a model for environmental stewardship, horticultural practices, and historic preservation practices. Tranquil, yet energizing and historic, yet innovative, Mount Auburn is utterly unique in its diverse offerings, including a cemetery, garden, arboretum, cultural landscape, and outdoor museum. Recognized as one of the most significant designed landscapes in the country, Mount Auburn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003.

Mount Auburn Cemetery attracts over 200,000 visitors per year, and they visit for many different reasons. Families and friends come to pay tribute to loved ones every day, and others come to enjoy the beautiful landscape, the magnificent trees, the birds and other wildlife, or the amazing collection of funerary art and architecture. Many visitors attend Mount Auburn’s educational programs and tours, and still others come to study history and learn about the notable residents of the Cemetery.

Throughout its 175 acres are more than 60,000 monuments that commemorate the lives and legacies of those now buried at Mount Auburn. Each monument tells an important story about the individuals it celebrates. In addition, the diverse collection of over 5,000 spectacular trees attracts many people who enjoy the beauty of the landscape and gardens of the Cemetery. It is this combination of the topography, the plants, the wildlife, the monuments, and other built structures that make Mount Auburn the unique landscape and National Historic Landmark for which it is known. Mount Auburn also offers educational opportunities, seasonal celebration programs, and activities, including meditation events, community recycling events, lectures and talks at Bigelow Chapel, performances, holiday wreath-making workshops, book clubs, and other engaging programs.

Mount Auburn has an annual operating budget of approximately $13M and an endowment of approximately $260 million. The organization has a total staff of 76 year-round employees plus 40 seasonal employees and interns, as well as over 150 volunteers. Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Friends of Mount Auburn are each governed by a Board of Trustees.

History

Bostonians founded Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831 for both practical and aesthetic reasons: to solve an urban land use problem created by an increasing number of burials in the city and to create a tranquil and beautiful place where families could commemorate their loved ones with tasteful works of art in an inviting and natural setting. The public flocked to the new cemetery and Mount Auburn quickly became the model for the American “rural” cemetery movement. Today, Mount Auburn continues its historic dual role as a sacred site and beloved cultural landscape.

More than 100,000 individuals are buried and commemorated at Mount Auburn, with more than 500 new burials each ongoing year. The organization honors the lives and legacies of all those now resting at the Cemetery who have helped to shape the world in which we live. Writers, educators, reformers, artists, scientists, and inventors are among those whose influence can still be seen throughout Boston, the New England region, nationally, and beyond.

Horticulture & Landscape

Mount Auburn Cemetery includes 175 acres of rolling hills and dells, ponds, and a nationally significant horticultural collection of 5,000 trees, over 6,000 shrub plantings, and 4,000 groundcover plantings. As America’s first large-scale designed landscape open to the public in North America, it is also a landscape of extreme historic significance that reflects nearly 200 years of changing ideas about horticulture and landscape design. The historic landscape has been continuously enhanced with new burial space and gardens by award winning designers. Mount Auburn’s current landscape management plan has been shaped by core values underpinning the most ecologically and historically sensitive practices. From its efforts to become a “zero waste” landscape to its ongoing initiatives to replace high-maintenance plants with lower-maintenance and drought-resistant options, Mount Auburn has become a leader among public gardens for its innovative and responsible practices.

In 2012 Mount Auburn achieved Level III Accreditation as an arboretum through ArbNet, an international organization promoting the work of arboreta.  Among the first arboreta in New England to receive this level of accreditation, and among a few cemeteries nationwide, Mount Auburn is acknowledged for its extraordinary plant collections. Those institutions granted accreditation by ArbNet must meet exacting criteria to qualify and must exemplify professionalism and a commitment to collaboration in scientific, collections, or conservation capacities.

Mount Auburn is also an important resource for the study of horticultural and environmental issues.  Guided by the recommendations in their Wildlife Action Plan, scientists and conservationists study the relationship between Mount Auburn’s horticultural collections and the wildlife that it supports.  Trained volunteers play an active role in collecting data for scientists studying the Cemetery’s biodiversity. The wildlife populations present at Mount Auburn include aquatic amphibians, reptiles, and fish populations; terrestrial amphibians and reptiles; migratory and breeding birds; urban bat populations; and ants, bees, and other insect pollinators.

Stewardship & Sustainability

A cemetery may not be the first institution that comes to mind when thinking about sustainability, but Mount Auburn is considered a model of environmental stewardship.  As part of its long-term vision for reducing its carbon footprint and conserving precious natural resources, the Cemetery has implemented strategies to reduce vehicle emissions and noise pollution, sought cleaner energy sources, established a sustainable grounds maintenance plan, and more. Additionally, it has incorporated a staff-driven working group for sustainability, which creates a healthier environment for employees, visitors, and the broader community.

Mount Auburn’s commitment to environmental stewardship is an institution-wide effort. For example, Mount Auburn purchases wind power Renewable Energy Certificates to offset the electricity consumption in the buildings throughout campus and is also exploring solar pilot projects to provide lighting at two of its most iconic landmarks, the Egyptian Revival Gateway and Washington Tower. Stewardship efforts also include the Cemetery’s provision of end-of-life services – in recent years the Cemetery has added options for natural burials to its list of offerings and a significant revitalization of Bigelow Chapel, which was dedicated in 2019 and includes the construction of a new, fuel-efficient, and clean-burning Crematory.

For more information on Mount Auburn Cemetery, please visit their website.

The Opportunity

The Vice President of Horticulture & Landscape (VPHL) is responsible for visionary and inspirational leadership and effective management of the Horticulture Department and a total departmental staff of 17 full-time and 37 seasonal (including internships) positions.

The VPHL is responsible for the design and implementation of landscape maintenance and improvements that achieve long-term strategic objectives such as increasing plant diversity, enhancing the sustainability and wildlife habitat value of the landscape, and preserving the historic character of this 175-acre “National Historic Landmark” and Level III accredited arboretum, which has over 5,000 trees and more than 20,000 plants overall, representing 115 different botanical families and comprising more than 2,000 different taxa.

The VPHL has overall responsibility for preparation of the annual departmental budget for approval by the Board of Trustees, and is responsible for prioritizing, setting, and achieving annual and long-range goals for all sections of the Horticulture Department, while adhering to the approved budget. The VPHL works with the Chair of the Horticulture & Landscape Committee of the Trustees to schedule meetings, set agendas, and prepare materials.

The VPHL serves as a member of the staff Executive Team (ET), along with the President & CEO, Executive Vice President & CFO, Vice President of Preservation & Facilities, Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services, Vice President of People & Culture and Vice President of Institutional Advancement. The ET is responsible for assisting the Trustees of the Cemetery in formulating the strategic vision for the organization and leading the staff in the planning and successful execution of goals, both annual and long-range, in support of the Cemetery’s strategic initiatives and mission.

The Vice President of Horticulture will be responsible for the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Provides leadership and direction to direct reports in the care and maintenance of a one of a kind landscape. Meets individually and collectively with all direct reports on a regular basis to ensure excellent communication and the efficient and effective management of all sections of the Horticulture Department.
  • Provides oversight and support to multiple teams within horticulture including: the Arboriculture, Horticulture, Grounds Maintenance, Greenhouse, Recycling, Sustainability, and Vehicle & Equipment Services sections of the department to ensure that Mount Auburn’s high standards are upheld with respect to on-going maintenance of the grounds, trees, shrubs, flowers, groundcovers, and grass.
  • Provides oversight and support to the Horticultural Curator, who supervises a full-time Plant Records Manager and two to three interns with responsibility for maintaining plant records and high curatorial standards for the Plant Collections, strategic planning for horticultural initiatives, landscape management practices and responses to pest/disease/invasive-species problems, and the design of new landscape plantings. The Curator also provides oversight and direction for greenhouse/nursery in plant production planning, crop sequencing, and staged growing of plants for eventual use on the grounds.
  • Provides oversight and support to the Director of Urban Ecology & Sustainability, who is responsible for leading company-wide efforts to be a model of environmental stewardship by reducing resource consumption, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions in response to climate change trends, and by expanding educational programming along these lines. The Director of Urban Ecology & Sustainability coordinates the rapidly growing volunteer Citizen Scientist program at Mount Auburn, collaborating with a number of local universities and environmental organizations.
  • The VPHL is responsible for prioritizing, setting, and achieving annual and long-range goals for all sections of the Horticulture Department, working with the President and other members of the Executive Leadership Team to ensure effective organization-wide planning.
  • The VPHL prepares and presents annual departmental budgets to the Horticulture & Landscape and Finance Committees of the Trustees and is responsible for adhering to the approved annual operating and capital budgets of the Horticulture Department.
  • Creates a culture of safety, and developing a zero-tolerance policy for unsafe practices
  • Sets the standard of care and maintenance for the landscape and serves as the final authority on landscape aesthetics and design throughout Mount Auburn
  • Serves as the primary staff liaison for the Horticulture & Landscape Committee of the Trustees, working with the Committee Chair and Board Relations Officer to schedule meetings, set agendas, and prepare meeting materials. Responsible for following up with Committee members and staff on all assigned tasks.
  • Actively researches, develops relationships, and pilots labor saving technology that will elevate the care and maintenance of a historic landscape.
  • Attends all meetings of the Executive Leadership Team and the Trustees of Mount Auburn Cemetery and other relevant Trustee committee meetings.
  • Works closely with the Director of Education & Visitor Services and other members of the Visitor Services staff to develop innovative programming that educates the public about the Cemetery’s historical and horticultural significance and its role as an environmental steward.
  • Fosters relationships with cultural and institutional partners, working with representatives of partner institutions on programming and marketing initiatives.
  • Works with the Institutional Advancement Department to secure funding for appropriate projects.
  • Supports and assists the activities of other departments as appropriate and needed, working closely with the appropriate Vice President.
  • In coordination with the other Vice Presidents, prepare and present annual and long-range budgets to the Trustee Finance Committee.
  • Maintain good morale, communication and ensure a high standard of conduct, productivity, and appropriate professional development within the Horticulture Department.
  • Participates in professional development and networking conferences and events.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

Horticultural Expertise and Management

  • Experience managing horticulture programs within multi-functional properties, ideally within climates in or similar to New England.
  • Knowledge of ecologically sustainable products, equipment, techniques, and concepts.
  • Expertise in plant taxonomy and familiarity with temperate plants that grow in the northeastern United States.
  • Interest and expertise in further developing Mount Auburns horticultural collection
  • Experience working with outside designers and contractors to move ahead significant capital or operational projects.

Effective Communication and Leading Through Influence

  • Strong relationship builder across internal and with external partners who can garner buy-in and contributions toward a broader strategy and the Cemetery’s mission
  • Able to both listen to and communicate effectively with staff at all levels, including full-time, temporary, and seasonal staff across a variety of functions.
  • Passionate advocate for the needs of the Horticulture team with an ability to garner buy-in from a range of constituents and translate needs into action.
  • Comfort serving as an ambassador for the Cemetery with a variety of audiences.

Strategy, Vision, and Leadership in Horticulture

  • Senior horticulture professional with proven strategic ability to fundamentally redefine and envision a public landscape that is both horticulturally complex or interesting and exceptionally beautiful

Team Leadership and Management

  • Strategic and thoughtful leader with the ability to move an organization toward a vision for horticulture and landscape goals beyond day-to-day operations.
  • Thoughtful risk-taker that is always looking for new opportunities and win/win partnerships, talented manager with the ability to build and inspire a team around collective goals.
  • Comfortable working in fast-paced environment; extremely resilient and able to be flexible and adapt to shifting priorities as needed.
  • Promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.
  • Foster a culture of belonging by building relationships and developing processes to ensure employees at all levels and from all backgrounds feel welcome, valued, integrated, and included in the Mount Auburn workforce.

In addition, strong candidates will offer:

  • S. Degree in Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, Botany, or related field (Master’s degree preferred), and/or relevant work experience in public gardens management.
  • Experience with BG-Base (or equivalent) and ESRI products desirable.
  • Bi-lingual, English/Spanish speaker desired.
  • Sense of humor.
  • Must possess valid driver’s license.
Compensation & Benefits

Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience.

Contact

Beth Schaefer, Liz Lombard, Marisa Chock, and Angie Sessoms of Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, have been exclusively retained for this engagement. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here.

Koya Partners is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please email NonprofitSearchOps@divsearch.com. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.

Mount Auburn Cemetery is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ applicants.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group firm, is dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world. At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com

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