Gerard T. Donnelly, president and CEO of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, is the 2013 recipient of the most prestigious honor conferred by the American Public Gardens Association.
The Honorary Life Member Award recognizes Donnelly's ongoing leadership roles in furthering the mission of the public garden realm, meritorious service to the association, and uncommon devotion to the field of public horticulture. APGA is the premier professional organization for public gardens in North America.
As CEO of the arboretum, the leading arboretum or tree-focused public garden in the world, Donnelly has led the institution in substantial growth since taking his position in 1990. He has advanced programs in collections, education, science and conservation at the 1,700-acre site and led regional, national and international collaborations.
Under Donnelly's direction, the organization has been accredited both as an arboretum and a museum. He oversaw a major site redevelopment featuring a Children's Garden, Maze Garden, enhanced Visitor Center, new main entrance, environmentally friendly parking lot and restoration of Meadow Lake. The improvements increased public awareness of and engaged more people in the arboretum's mission to save and plant trees.
Donnelly also has leadership roles in current and future initiatives with the Directors of Large Gardens group, the ArbNet professional network of arboretums, the Global Trees Campaign in partnership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the International Association of Botanic Gardens.
Donnelly served as president of APGA from 1997 to 1999, hosted its annual conference in Chicago in 2005 and received the APGA Service Award in 2008.
Trained as a botanist and forest ecologist, he earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University.