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Dallas Arboretum CEO announces retirement

Written by Mindia Whittier

A committee will be formed to perform a national search for her replacement as part of the succession plan.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, an award-winning public garden, has announced its President and CEO Mary Brinegar will retire from the organization in the next year.

Brinegar, who has held the position for 27 years, will remain active until her successor is named. She announced her retirement to employees and the board on a milestone birthday for her.

“Mary shared with leadership more than two years ago that this was her plan. She stayed through the pandemic and its financial challenges, all the while strengthening her internal team to provide outstanding support for an incoming CEO,” said Dallas Arboretum Board Chairman Jim Ryan said. “I want to thank Mary for her dedication to the Dallas Arboretum and the City of Dallas and for all she’s done over the past 27 years to make the Arboretum the jewel of the city. The entire Board  appreciates her vision, her standard of excellence and her attention to detail given to all the work taking place in the garden through these many years. She has given the majority of her work life in service to the Dallas Arboretum, and we are one of the country’s top botanical gardens because of her efforts.”

During Brinegar’s leadership, the garden has developed 60 percent of its property, and reworked the original gardens in place. She fulfilled the Dallas Arboretum’s mission by also adding a strong education program and trial research program.

Structural additions occurring during her tenure included the buildings of the Trammell Crow Visitor Education Pavilion; the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden; A Tasteful Place complex with the Test Pavilion; the Margaret and Jay Simmons Lagoon and gardens; the Boswell Family Garden; the McCasland Sunken Garden; the Richard L. Grant Octagonal Fountain Garden; the Nancy Clements Seay Magnolia Glade; the Henry Lindsley Shadow Garden; the Jan and Richard McMillan Fountain Renovation; the Nancy Rutchik Red Maple Rill and the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage and Lawn; the Jeanne L. Johnson Pavilion; the Tres Amigas garden; the Martha Brooks Camellia Garden; and Linda’s Pocket Garden.

Additionally, Brinegar helped guide renovations of the parking lots, updating of the DeGolyer House and Camp House; the renovation of major garden areas including the Lay Family Garden and Terrace; the Palmer Fern Dell; the Rose Mary Haggar Rose Garden; the Dann Talley Kincheloe Courtyard and many other smaller areas. The Dallas Arboretum secured a loan for a parking garage, bought the land for a greenhouse and then built structures on it. 

Major exhibits were added such as the Pumpkin Festival, The 12 Days of Christmas, the Dazzling Christmas Tree and the Pauline and Austin Neuhoff Christmas Village to boost attendance. In 2012, she helped bring a Chihuly sculpture exhibit to the garden—the first time attendance reached a million visitors. The Dallas Arboretum now has year-round activities and festivals for all interests, and has been named by many national sources as a major attraction in the city. 

Brinegar was awarded Fundraiser of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and served on the American Public Garden Association national board for six years.

The Dallas Arboretum, with a current budget of $26 million, has operated in the black for more than 28 years and welcomes a million visitors a year. It is supported in part by funds from the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. The Dallas Morning News is the principal partner of the Dallas Arboretum. WFAA, Channel 8 is an official media sponsor.

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About the author

Mindia Whittier