We had a good turnout for our Annual Meeting on June 15—our first in-person version of the event in three years! More than 70 Arboretum Foundation members joined us to hear about our fiscal-year accomplishments, listen to updates from our UW and City partners, and participate in our Board of Directors election.

To begin the evening, retiring Board Member Carol Hoerster delivered a land acknowledgement, recognizing that the Arboretum is situated on ancestral lands of the Coast Salish. Retiring Board President Jenny Wyatt then welcomed our guests and panelists, thanking them “for championing this urban sanctuary that brings innumerable benefits to our visitors and our city.”

Jenny outlined the Board’s recent work to refresh the Foundation’s strategic plan within the framework of the five major goals identified in our 2009 plan. The refreshed goals, envisioned as a three-year endeavor, are:

  • Expand and strengthen the Arboretum Foundation’s advancement efforts.
  • Make the Arboretum a great place to work and provide resources for those delivering our mission.
  • Be an effective advocate for the Arboretum.
  • Listen and respond to the needs of our diverse local, regional, and global community.
  • Strengthen Arboretum governance and build partnerships.

    Jenny Wyatt (left) opens the meeting before Carol Hoerster reads the land acknowledgment.

    Jenny welcomed Board member Mark Rowley to the podium to talk about the work of our Governance Committee to update the Foundation’s bylaws. Mark explained that this was done to ensure consistency with the new Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act and the Foundation’s own Articles of Incorporation. Key changes included new language covering electronic meetings and voting; the consolidation of Foundation members into a single voting class; and updated language clarifying procedures for the election of Board officers.

    Board Treasurer Jeff Lehman then came to the podium to discuss the financial performance of the Foundation. He broke down our 2021 fiscal year spreadsheet, published in this year’s Annual Report, and highlighted our 2021–22 contribution of $1.32 million to our University and City partners. Using trend graphs, Jeff then discussed the Foundation’s strong fiscal health over the past five years, reflected in a number of significant capital project successes, including the restoration of the Japanese Garden Pond, the construction of the Centennial Garden, and the beautification of Lake Washington Boulevard.

    Pie chart breaking down our 2021–22 contributions to the UW and Seattle Parks.

    Next up, we heard from our first guest speaker, Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation. Christopher praised the partnership of the City, UW, and the Foundation for stewarding the Arboretum, and spoke about how pleased his department has been with the success of Seattle Japanese Garden since the Foundation took over as its major support organization. The five-year, co-management agreement between the two entities is up for renewal.

    Christopher also spoke about the pandemic-related permitting delays at the Army Corps of Engineers that have been holding up the restoration of the Waterfront Trail project on Foster Island. He said the City will continue to work on trying to get the permitting pushed through.

    Christopher Williams giving his update for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

    UW Botanic Gardens Director Christina Owen then took the mic and outlined her organization’s goals for 2022. These include mainstreaming diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture; broadening community connections; and reimagining organizational partnerships. She spoke about how UWBG and the Foundation are jointly hiring a new outreach coordinator to lead our outreach to community organizations serving historically underrepresented people. Christina also talked about hosting this summer’s New Directions in Public Gardens speaker series, which is exploring how gardens like ours can evolve to meet the needs of communities of Washington both today and in the future.

    Looking to the near future, Christina talked about how the upcoming John Grade sculpture will bring new visitors to the Arboretum. She also mentioned that there is discussion underway on how to activate the Stone Cottage at the south end of Arboretum Drive.

    With that, Christina turned it over to Foundation Board Vice President Kat Korab, who emceed the governance portion of the meeting. This included the nomination and approval of four new board members: Maribeth O’Connor, John Reed, Alissa Rupp, and Yuka Shimizu. Kat also bid fond farewell to two departing Board members, thanking them for their exemplary service: Carol Hoerster (seven years) and Mike Rowley (three years).

    A slide from Christina Owen’s presentation.

    Foundation Executive Director Jane Stonecipher then gave a special recognition to outgoing Board President Jenny Wyatt, reading a proclamation/poem that began:

    “Let it be known throughout the land
    that Jennifer Wyatt has served ably and well
    as Arboretum Foundation Board President 2020–22.

    She has been a proud protector
    of the flowering trees and woody plants of the collection
    and brought a poet’s heart to telling their stories.

    Hers has been a steady hand in a time of pandemic
    Charting a flexible course while never losing sight
    of the horizon…”

    Foundation staff then gave a short “year in review” presentation, summarizing many of the details featured in our 2022 Annual Report. Events and Corporate Sponsorship Manager Tess Forte spoke about February’s very successful The Art of Nature virtual gala and auction; reconstruction of the Tsutakawa Gates; and this past year’s outstanding fall and spring appeal campaigns.

    Our four new Board Members elected during the meeting.

    Seattle Japanese Garden Program Manager Jessa Gardner provided highlights of the Garden’s 2021 season, including the completion of the second half of the pond renovation project in spring; August’s Garden Party, featuring the world premiere performance of “The Garden of Enchantment,” a chamber piece commissioned by the Arboretum Foundation from composer Paul Chihara; and a sold-out, in-person Moon Viewing in September.

    Bookkeeper and Gift Shop Coordinator Matt Schropp-Lance provided an overview of our volunteer programs, highlighting the reopening of our plant sale programs; our new online plant purchasing system; and two very successful in-person events: the 2021 Gifts and Greens Galore, which raised a record $22,500 for the Arboretum, and the 2022 Earth Day at the Arboretum, which saw 116 volunteers remove more than 50 cubic yards of invasive weeds from plant collections and natural areas. Matt also highlighted the efforts of our Garden Stewards and corporate group volunteers (24 projects this past year!), plus a new partnership with the non-profit Friends of Arboretum Creek, in helping keep the Arboretum healthy and beautiful.

    Foundation Executive Jane Stonecipher concluded the review by thanking the Foundation staff for their hard work and mentioning some behind-the-scenes improvements, including an upgrade of the Foundation’s donor and volunteer software. She also highlighted two new strategic iniatives that the Arboretum has embarked on:

    • “The Foundation was successful in securing a $300,000 legislative appropriation to conduct a community inventory of perceptions and desires for the Arboretum and the Japanese Garden. Working with UWBG and the Parks Department, we will define a phased project to survey on-grounds visitors and program participants, then reach out to others in the community who may not currently be using the space.”
    • “The second BIG IDEA initiative is our selection as one of seven participants in the 2022 cohort of the prestigious Central Park Conservancy’s Partnerships Lab….The Foundation is at the table with UWBG and Seattle Parks and Recreation, engaging in the hard conversations on how we simplify our governance structure, strengthen our fundraising prowess, and live up to the potential of being a world class 21st century botanic garden and a high profile state Arboretum.”

    Volunteer Legacy Award Winner Trina Wherry (center) at the reception after the meeting.

    Jane also talked about two large legacy gifts the Foundation received this past year, and she gave updates on the Rhody Glen restoration, plus two new projects getting underway: the reimaging of Crabapple Meadow and the planning for the new North Entry. She wrapped up her speech by announcing the recipient of our Volunteer Legacy Award, Trina Wherry.

    “Our award winner this year is the epitome of an enthusiastic ambassador of the Arboretum. She is a three-term board member and has consistently served in leadership roles including chairing three different committees: Finance, Advancement, and Advocacy. A savvy business person, Trina has also been a supportive and effective counselor to this Executive Director, pushing for excellence but also being first in line supporting the effort to achieve it. She has demonstrated her passion for cultivating both the beauty of the Arboretum and our mission to preserve it as a legacy resource for the community. “

    Jenny Wyatt concluded the proceedings by passing the gavel to Peter Rees, her successor as Board President. She also quoted a passage from Richard Powers’ The Overstory:

    “A woman sits on the ground, leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back, as hard as life. Its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things, in words before words.”

    Jenny remarked, “I do believe that in their own way, trees are saying important things to us, and what better place to go and listen than the Arboretum.”

    The meeting concluded with a wine-and-light-fare reception on the Visitors Center patio.

    A big thank to everyone who joined us and participated in the meeting.