Jane Stonecipher took on the role of interim executive director for the Arboretum Foundation in August 2017.
“It was going to be a five-month proposition, and we ended up deciding it made sense to lengthen that term,” she said. “A search was started, but we had a final conversation before commencing with any interviews, and I decided to stay on permanently.”
Now that Stonecipher has committed to the organization for the long-term, she has more time to focus on the organization’s multiple programs and projects in the works.
Stonecipher went to Harvard Business School, where she met her husband, Charles. She’s worked in finance and business development for Arthur Andersen, Hewlett Packard and Western Wireless.
After moving to Seattle, she became involved in a number of nonprofit boards, and said she was drafted to be Epiphany School’s chief financial officer in 2007, during its capital campaign for a new building.
“I just discovered that the nonprofit world fit me well,” Stonecipher said.
She said she was able to leverage her business sense to help great institutions be more sustainable, as is her goal for the Arboretum Foundation as she looks ahead at the next decade.
Before joining the foundation, Stonecipher served as vice president of business development and finance at the Woodland Park Zoo from 2011 to 2016. One of her favorite projects was the Tigers on Tour program that coincided with the reintroduction of tigers to the zoo, she said. The zoo is still a special place for her.
“It’s actually one of the first field trips that families take with their young kids,” Stonecipher said.
She sees similarities between the zoo and arboretum. Both are heavily reliant on volunteers, have a strong working relationship with Seattle Parks and Recreation, and are concerned about conservation.
Stonecipher said her goals moving forward include improving and coexisting with the watershed within the arboretum, increasing inclusion and access, and expanding environmental education.
The Arboretum Foundation is working with its partners —
Seattle Parks and Recreation and the University of Washington Botanic Garden — to create a new environmental education center, next to the visitor center on the north end of the arboretum.
Stonecipher said she’s excited about the next phase of the State Route 520 replacement project, which will provide a bike and pedestrian connection to the Arboretum Loop Trail, which opened in November 2017. She also wants to make it easier to get to the arboretum via public transportation.
The Seattle Japanese Garden turns 60 next year, and the Arboretum Foundation oversees its programming. Stonecipher said there are plans for celebrating the garden throughout the 2020 season.
“I think the garden is one way that we’re making inroads with inclusion,” she said “We have more than 15 free days available through the season.”
The Seattle Japanese Garden offers free admission on the first Thursday of the month, except when it’s closed during the winter, and often there’s a program that coincides with it. The Aug. 1 free Thursday program includes Butoh dance theater performances around the garden from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Stonecipher said attendance at the Seattle Japanese Garden grew from 80,000 to 118,000 from 2016 to 2018, crediting expanded programming, a greater social media presence and population growth for the increase.
An upcoming project Stonecipher is looking forward to overseeing is the restoration of Rhododendron Glen, one of the arboretum’s first collections, which is being funded through a $750,000 gift from foundation volunteer Mary Ellen Mulder and her husband, Gordon Mulder. Dating back to the 1930s, Rhododendron Glen has prized specimens from all over the world. The project will focus on removing invasive species and easing the canopy density to better support the stream and ponds, as well as improving pathways, enhancing the collection and providing better erosion controls. That work will unfold over the next several years, Stonecipher said.
Permitting is also underway to elevate the Waterfront Trail on Foster Island to keep it above water, with work expected to start in 2020.
“There are three pots of state funding that are funding the first part of that work,” Stonecipher said.
Volunteerism remains healthy at the arboretum, Stonecipher said, including growth from corporate work groups. She encourages anyone who enjoys the arboretum to volunteer and work with its skilled gardeners.
“It’s pretty cool, because the gardeners that work with them are pretty knowledgeable and happy to show off all they know,” she said.
Learn more about the Arboretum Foundation at arboretumfoundation.org.