Category: News

Matthew Stephens Named 14th President of Mount Auburn Cemetery

June 30, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Miles Grant
mgrant@denterlein.com

Cambridge, Mass. (June 30, 2021) – The Mount Auburn Cemetery Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Matthew Stephens to be its 14th President and CEO. A vocal advocate for the power of green spaces in urban environments and an outstanding business leader with strong experience in strategic planning, Stephens will begin in his new role in September.

“Mount Auburn Cemetery plays a unique, multi-faceted role as a historic site, an active cemetery and a vibrant green space. Matthew Stephens has the energy, vision and expertise to successfully lead Mount Auburn Cemetery,” said Patricia Jacoby, Chair of Mount Auburn’s Board of Trustees. “As we approach our two-hundredth anniversary in 2031, we have many opportunities to consider how to continue our long history of effectively connecting this special place with nearby residents and visitors alike.”

With more than 15 years of leadership experience, Stephens has managed historic, public-facing organizations with complex missions. In these roles, he fostered new partnerships, effectively prioritized operational needs, created the groundwork for effective capital campaigns and managed critical capital projects. He has a strong track record of increasing public enjoyment of green spaces, creating a high standard of horticultural excellence, and inspiring new generations of financial supporters for non-profit institutions.

Stephens most recently served as the Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and Botanical Garden. During his time in this role, he increased membership, attendance and investment.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Mount Auburn Cemetery. My career has been dedicated to connecting people to culture through plants and the arts in inspirational settings,” said Matthew Stephens. “Mount Auburn has always been a leader in reimagining what cemeteries can be and how they can be a resource to the broader community. I look forward to developing a wave of new energy to further galvanize Mount Auburn Cemetery as a locally cherished and internationally recognized cultural institution.”

Previously, Stephens led MillionTreesNYC under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most ambitious and complex urban greening projects ever completed, where one million trees were planted throughout New York City. Stephens earned the 2013 Isaac Lieberman Award for outstanding public service among New York City’s 325,000 municipal employees.

“Our goal throughout the search was to identify a leader committed to advancing Mount Auburn Cemetery’s mission, values, and aspirations,” said Dean Hara, Chair of the Search Committee of the Board. “We were fortunate to have an outstanding slate of candidates; among them, Matthew stood out for his ability to be both an effective steward for the physical space and a strong leader with an understanding of how much Mount Auburn Cemetery can contribute to Greater Boston.”

David Barnett, current Mount Auburn President and CEO, had previously announced plans to retire from the Cemetery in September. The Board is grateful for Dave’s many contributions to Mount Auburn since he became head of horticulture 28 years ago and for his dynamic leadership of the Cemetery during the last 13 years.

Stephens is a graduate of Illinois State University and earned his Master of Science in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware in the prestigious Longwood Graduate Program. His selection is the culmination of a seven-month nationwide search, assisted by Russell Reynolds Associates.

Matthew Stephens, Mount Auburn’s 14th President & CEO. Photograph by Richard Morgenstein.

About Mount Auburn Cemetery

Established in 1831 and home to more than 100,000 permanent residents, Mount Auburn Cemetery seeks to inspire all who visit, comfort the bereaved, and commemorate the dead in a landscape of exceptional beauty. We envision a world that celebrates life’s seasons, preserves natural beauty, and remembers human stories for our 200,000 annual visitors. Mount Auburn is a National Historic Landmark that is open to the public at no cost, 365 days a year.

Current Hours

June 1, 2021

The Cemetery grounds are open to all visitors 8 AM – 8 PM every day.  Please see below for information regarding specific buildings and amenities.


Visitors Center

The Visitors Center, located in Story Chapel, is open during all hours that the grounds are open to the public. It is staffed each day between 9 AM and 4:30 PM. If you need assistance locating a grave or planning your itinerary, please make sure to stop in the Visitors Center during the hours when a staff member or a volunteer will be there to assist you. Please Note: When Story Chapel is in use for a private memorial service, the Visitors Center is closed to the public.


Administration Office

Our Administrative Office is open by appointment for questions about grave and lot care and other Cemetery business. Our staff is available to assist you with most questions by phone or email during regular office hours:


Greenhouse

Throughout the year, Mount Auburn’s Greenhouse offers seasonal cut flower arrangements for placement at graves and lots in the Cemetery. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Greenhouse to learn more about our current horticultural initiatives. The Greenhouse is open year-round during the following hours:


More:

Visit Mount Auburn

Memorial Day 2021

May 29, 2021

This year we are offering several opportunities to commemorate loved ones in observance of Memorial Day. Learn more about our seasonal floral tribute options, our flag policy, and how to view year’s Virtual Service of Commemoration.


SERVICE OF COMMEMORATION

Mount Auburn’s Service of Commemoration is held each May against the backdrop of our spectacular spring landscape. This year, we offer a pre-recorded program of words and music to console and to inspire as you remember all those whom you have lost.

WATCH THE SERVICE >>>


FLORAL TRIBUTES

We are no longer accepting orders for the Memorial Day Season of Remembrance but you may bring a tribute purchased elsewhere for placement at a grave or lot. In accordance with our Rules & Regulations, only tributes made of natural plant material are allowed.

Because our Greenhouse is currently closed to the public, we will not be offering walk-up or in-person floral tribute sales at the Cemetery this Memorial Day.

All Mother’s Day and Memorial Day Tributes will be removed from the grounds starting June 14, 2021.


IRRIGATION SYSTEM UPDATE

At this time, our irrigation system is not working and therefore the standpipes throughout the Cemetery are not able to dispense water. There is a temporary standpipe available at the entrance to the greenhouse road. You can either fill up a watering can there or bring your own from home. We’re sorry for this inconvenience.


FLAGS

Mount Auburn has complimentary Veterans Flags available for select holidays including Memorial Day. These flags are only to be used for placement at graves within the Cemetery.

Flags are currently available at our Entrance Gate.


MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS

Memorial contributions are used to enhance the beauty of our grounds. Individuals recognized with a Memorial Contribution will be remembered at our annual Service of Commemoration.

MAKE A MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTION >>

“Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.”


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Decoration Day”

Celebrating Dave Barnett

April 30, 2021

2021 is a bittersweet year for all of us at Mount Auburn as we look ahead to the retirement of President & CEO Dave Barnett in September. Over the past 28 years since he first arrived as Director of Horticulture, his impact has been profound – both as an advocate and innovator for horticulture throughout our landscape and as a leader who has inspired and mentored a passionate, talented staff working together to bring Mount Auburn to new levels of excellence.

Rethinking Mount Auburn’s Landscape

Dave arrived at a pivotal turning point in Mount Auburn’s recent history, and has played a crucial role its evolution since then. When Dave was hired in 1993, the Cemetery had recently completed a master plan to tackle concerns that it would run out of burial space within a decade if it didn’t change its operations – a predicament that had to be balanced with preserving the nationally significant landscape. After several years of studying the site and working closely with Trustees and staff, a consulting team from Halvorson Design recommended a set of strategies for Mount Auburn to approach its future more creatively, with new models for incorporating burial space while simultaneously enhancing the historic landscape and recapturing its early design principles and founding values.

One recommendation that quickly got implemented was to restructure the horticulture program to reimagine the landscape and already-strong collection of plants and trees. This was what brought Dave here as the Cemetery’s first Director of Horticulture, inspired by the opportunity to bring an already beautiful place to new levels. “What drew me was the trees and landscape when I first came in the gate – it was phenomenal,” Dave recalls. “I was here in the middle of May that year, and just saw the sheer beauty of the place, and I was excited about the possibilities of building on that landscape and making it even better.”

That visit inspired Dave to take a closer look at the master plan, which confirmed for him that Mount Auburn was moving forward in a direction he wanted to be part of. And he has been implementing these strategies ever since, managing a growing number of landscape redesign projects over the years. In the process, Mount Auburn became what we see today – widely regarded as a leader in horticulture, and sustainable, habitat-friendly landscape design, and predicted to remain an active cemetery with burial space well into the future.

“In all my years of working with institutions and public agencies on preserving and developing cultural landscapes throughout the Boston metropolitan area and beyond, Dave stands out. Whenever he spoke about projects and plans for the Cemetery, he would quote from the Master Plan. It didn’t just sit on his shelf…It has stood the test of time not just because of what was in it but because of Dave’s commitment to honoring the principles that Mount Auburn was founded on and how they were manifested in the landscape to comfort and inspire.”

Liz Vizza, Former Senior Associate at Halvorson Design, now President of the Friends of the Public Garden

Highlights of Dave’s Tenure

Dave is the first to admit that he never could have predicted he would spend the rest of his career at Mount Auburn (or any cemetery), let alone become President & CEO. “But what I did know, and had long been sure of, was that I wanted a career in public horticulture. And that’s what I’m still doing – it just happens to have the very important cemetery side of it as well. I should also say that the cemetery side was something I had to get used to, but as it turns out, it’s probably the most compelling and satisfying part.”


“Dave doesn’t just work at Mount Auburn, he lives Mount Auburn. He epitomizes the values that we came up with during the Vision and Values process. The Statement of Vision and Values talks about welcome, compassion, dignity, stewardship, sustainability, and integrity: all of which Dave stands for as a person.”


Pat Jacoby, Chair of Mount Auburn Cemetery Board of Trustees

Reflecting on his tenure, certain highlights stand out for Dave today. One of the first major projects inspired by the master plan that he helped implement was restoring the natural woodland habitat around Consecration Dell in the heart of the Cemetery – an ambitious initiative that began in 1997 and has continued in stages ever since. And more recently, the 2018 renovation of Asa Gray Garden was the culmination of years of planning, to elevate one of our most-visited areas near our main entrance into both a horticultural showpiece and a tranquil space that better serves anyone in need of respite.

A hillside is covered with native shrubs and trees. It is spring and the entire hillside is shades of green from the masses of plantings.

“Consecration Dell and Asa Gray Garden are both spectacular in many ways, but they’re very different. One is a restoration of a natural woodland. And the other is an ornamental, four-season, colorful garden. But I think what they both relate to, in different ways, is the importance what Mount Auburn is for so many people: an inspiring, tranquil, beautiful place. They each do that in a very different way, but both projects were absolutely transformative.”

Dave Barnett

Leadership and Innovation

Central to Dave’s leadership style is a deep respect and eagerness to support and encourage the staff he has worked with over the years. During his many years both in our Horticulture Department and as President & CEO, Dave has both fostered a strong sense of community among the staff and pushed Mount Auburn to new levels of innovation.

“I think what pulls us all together is the recognition of the value of what we do, and the importance of Mount Auburn as a place of beauty and comfort,” Dave reflects. “There’s a real pride that everybody gets after they come here. It’s something about Mount Auburn that makes people want to work intently to make it even better. And that’s only happened because of the people here. There’s been a lot of long-standing, ongoing relationships that have kept this place going to the next level.”

Dave has not only played a major role in making Mount Auburn what it is today: he has also played a major role in making the people of Mount Auburn who they are today. With gratitude, we thank him, and promise to carry on his vision and above all his compassion for all of those who make up the community of Mount Auburn.

Regina Harrison, Sales Manager


More:

Watch recordings of DAVE ON TAP: Reflections on Mount Auburn with President & CEO Dave Barnett, a three-part series of moderated discussions on horticulture, ecology, and preservation.

Listen to Lessons In Ecology from Mount Auburn Cemetery, with David Barnett on the “A Way To Garden with Margaret Roach” podcast.


The David P. Barnett Fund for Horticulture & Urban Ecology

To honor Dave’s career, Mount Auburn has established the David P. Barnett Fund for Horticulture & Urban Ecology, which will support emerging professionals in both fields. The fund has been inspired by Dave’s profound impact on the Cemetery’s landscape – showcasing our horticultural excellence and creating a more sustainable habitat – and his strong belief in mentoring and giving hands-on training to young people. Providing opportunities for emerging professionals as they embark on careers in the fields he loves is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

“We need to keep encouraging young future leaders, and professionals at every level. It’s important to me to have a fund that will provide mentorship and training opportunities. These individuals will be the future of protecting our world and maintaining places like Mount Auburn, whether it’s Mount Auburn or so many other gardens or wildlife sanctuaries where they might end up working.”

Please help us honor Dave by donating to the Barnett Fund today!


Dave’s Career at Mount Auburn