Category: News

3 Questions with Matthew Stephens

August 3, 2021

Just before the Independence Day holiday, the Board of Trustees unanimously selected Matthew Stephens to be our 14th President and CEO. Matthew will begin his new role in September. Below, learn more about Matthew and his vision for Mount Auburn Cemetery.

What drew you to a career leading horticulture programs in public spaces?

“There have been a series of events that led me down a path to Mount Auburn. Since I was young, I always had an interest in plants. One of my earliest memories in life at the age of four was when I picked up a long branch that had blown off a big tree in a windstorm and I stuck it into the soil, thinking it would grow into a tree. It was a big failure. I now know why. This moment was the beginnings of my discovery and inspiration of plants, and the power that they had over me. Since then, all my career choices have revolved around using plants in public spaces to inspire. Mount Auburn is a natural next step.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

“To date, my proudest moment has been helping to lead and complete MillionTreesNYC. One million trees is an incredible accomplishment anywhere, but further bolstered by completing this massive achievement in one of the most complex urban areas as it relates to infrastructure/logistics, diversity of communities, and the ever present unexpected (and at times unbelievable) surprises New York City always presents. I am also extremely proud of my work in San Francisco, and how much I was able to accomplish in a short period of time to elevate and enhance the three Gardens of Golden Gate Park.”

What do you see as your biggest challenge or opportunity as the next president of Mount Auburn Cemetery?

“Great question – perhaps the biggest challenge and opportunity will be to continue the traditions that were started by the founders of Mount Auburn when they reimagined what cemeteries could be. The incredible horticulture, unique programming and leadership in environmental sustainability make for a great mixture of elements for future success. These elements will need to be woven together carefully to further evolve Mount Auburn Cemetery into a locally cherished and international renowned cultural institution.”

We look forward to welcoming Matthew to our community this fall and will keep you updated on the transition and chances to meet Matthew yourself. In the meantime, we encourage you to join or renew your Friends of Mount Auburn membership.

Matthew Stephens Named 14th President of Mount Auburn Cemetery

June 30, 2021


Miles Grant

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.