Morton Arboretum president and CEO announces he'll retire in a year

  • Gerard T. Donnelly, president and CEO of Morton Arboretum, speaks with a guest at the June groundbreaking for a $15 million Grand Garden at the arboretum in Lisle.

    Gerard T. Donnelly, president and CEO of Morton Arboretum, speaks with a guest at the June groundbreaking for a $15 million Grand Garden at the arboretum in Lisle. John Starks | Staff Photographer/Daily Herald File Photo

 
Updated 10/4/2021 5:16 PM
This article has been corrected to clarify Gerard T. Donnelly hasn't yet retired but will next year.

LISLE -- The Morton Arboretum Monday said Gerard T. Donnelly, president and CEO, has announced he will retire on Sept. 30, 2022.

The organization's board of trustees has established a leadership transition committee to facilitate the search for Donnelly's successor. Koya Partners in Chicago, an executive recruiting firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been retained to conduct the search, the arboretum said.

 

Donnelly has served in his role since 1990.

Over the last three decades, Donnelly has increased the Arboretum's visibility, public outreach and philanthropic support. As a trained botanist and forest ecologist, he has greatly expanded the organization's science, conservation and education programs that are aligned with its world-renowned tree collections. The institution will celebrate its centennial year in 2022.

"Thanks to Gerry's exceptional leadership and talent, the Morton Arboretum has grown to become the leading arboretum in the world, as well as a tremendous asset for our community," said Stephen C. Van Arsdell, chair of the arboretum's board. "As a scientist and innovator, Gerry has positioned the organization for continued success into its second century as a center of tree expertise and source of inspiration for people to plant and protect trees."

Donnelly led initiatives to redevelop the Arboretum into a more visible and welcoming destination, including the addition of a landmark four-acre Children's Garden that draws new generations to explore trees and nature and become future stewards of the environment. Improvements to the 1,700-acre site led to increased public awareness, attendance and support, which have continued to grow and position the Arboretum among the Chicago region's top visitor attractions and as the most-visited arboretum in the world.

"It has been my aim to elevate The Morton Arboretum and grow its capacity to champion the cause of trees in the world," Donnelly said. "I have been fortunate to be able to lead this organization through a period of dramatic growth in its reach and impact at a time when its tree-focused mission is needed more than ever."

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