FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
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.
Saturday, October 23 & Sunday, October 24, 2 pm
“The Gathering Place” choreographed by Jennifer Lin
The sum of a gathering of spirits, people, plants, and animals within a place – Mount Auburn. Inspired by the landscape and historic figures of Mount Auburn Cemetery, The Gathering Place is a site-specific dance to be performed in Hazel Dell and experienced in the round. The dance abstractly represents and celebrates the lives of historic characters buried at Mount Auburn and examines place, time and environment. Jennifer Lin’s choreography is a blend of Western ballet, American modern and postmodern dance traditions. The dancers range in age from 25 – 85 years, bringing a depth to the dance expression and emotion. Directly following the dance, Jennifer Lin will talk about the creation and inspiration of the dances and take questions.
Tickets: $20 / $15 for Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What time should I arrive?
Please plan to be at the Cemetery at least 15 minutes before your showtime so you have ample time to park, use the restroom and check in.
Is there parking?
Yes, when you arrive security will direct you to parking.
Is there a student/senior rate?
No, the only discounted ticket rate is for members of the Friends of Mount Auburn. Learn more about becoming a member.
Do I need to print my ticket?
No, we will have your name on our attendee list.
If I cannot make it to the performance, are my tickets refundable?
If you request a refund at least 48 hours before the show, we will refund your ticket price minus the processing fee by Eventbrite.
Is the play canceled if it is raining?
We will be in touch with ticket holders in the event of rain.
Is the play handicap accessible?
The performance will take place in Hazel Dell off Central Ave. There is a short walk over uneven terrain to the seats.
Do I need to bring my own chair?
No, we will provide chairs for every attendee.
Are restrooms available?
There are accessible public restrooms in the Story Chapel Visitors Center.
Can I take photos?
Once the performance has begun, we ask that you turn off your cell phones, and put away other electronic devices. Photos are not allowed during the performance.
Are masks required to attend?
We are monitoring changing covid-19 safety precautions and will email ticket holders with current guidance prior to the event. Face masks are required inside all buildings per the Watertown Board of Health (effective August 25, 2021), so bring a mask for restroom use.
This year we have made mini-grants to five artists to create original works inspired by the Cemetery during a one-year period. Each of the selected artists will create an original project rooted in their experiences at Mount Auburn. Today, meet Jennifer Lin and learn about her project, “The Gathering Place.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.
Most of my childhood was spent in the Midwest, but because of my father’s work at the time (1960s), our family spent a year living in Brookline and then Malden, Mass. As it happened, Virginia Williams, founder of the Boston Ballet, still had a ballet school in Malden when we lived there during my 5th year of grammar school. I went to watch my best friend’s ballet class and was hooked for life on dance. I loved the physicality and the sense of abandon and freedom dancing offered, and of course the excitement of preparing, to the best of my ability, for performance.
I am a classically trained dancer of European and Asian descent. My choreography is characteristic of Western ballet and American modern and postmodern dance traditions. Sometimes I draw inspiration from my study and research of traditional Korean dance. I think of myself as a formalist and abstract expressionist. This means movement itself, and its properties and elements, greatly inspire my dance making. Visual design excites me. I like playing with shapes, space, texture, patterns, motion, rhythm, and dynamics. I build choreography using process-driven procedures such as chance, trial and error, and improvisation. The work feels architectural in nature. The dancer-performers are also an integral part of my dance-making process. I try to build on their strengths, and they infuse the choreography with individuality, personality, and style.
This is not your first experience creating choreography for Mount Auburn. Can you tell us about your work for “A Glimpse Beyond”?
“A Glimpse Beyond” brought together and thematically connected different episodes of live music, dance, song, and poetry and dispersed the acts in various locations. The audience moved from place to place to observe the different performances.
I presented two dances for two different productions of “A Glimpse Beyond.” One was a contemporary modern solo inspired by an iconic traditional Korean folk dance, and it was connected thematically through the story of a Korean War veteran. The other dance was a reconstruction of a traditional Korean drum dance.
Those two dances were not created as site-specific work; they were pre-composed, adapted, and performed within the context of “Glimpse.” In contrast, “The Gathering Place” will be a site-specific dance. It is created for and performed in a specific non-traditional location (rather than a traditional theater), and the content of the dance is inspired by my impression and interpretation of that place, the environment itself, and research on some of the history of Mount Auburn.
Can you describe the performance that you are creating, “The Gathering Place”? Where at Mount Auburn will the dance take place?
I think “The Gathering Place” is just that, the sum of a gathering of spirits, people, plants, and animals at and within a place – Mount Auburn – and happening at a specific time and location.
The dance abstractly represents, mourns, honors, and celebrates the spirits and lives of 8-10 historic characters buried at Mount Auburn, and examines the functions and particulars of place, time, and environment. I tried to synthesize and make a coherent whole out of all of these materials.
The dance evolves in the circular landscape of Hazel Dell. The choreography is designed to match the shape of the Dell and unfold in a circular, winding configuration. There is no designated “front” from which to view the dance, and the audience can sit or stand outside of the circle and around the periphery of the performance space.
Who are the historic people you have selected as characters in “The Gathering Place”? Who inspired or surprised you during your research?
The historic people I selected:
- Amy Lowell (1874-1925, Lot 3401, Bellwort Path): poet
- Asa Gray (1810-1888, Lot 3904, Holly Path): botanist, evolutionist
- Erna Rosenberg (1911-2012, Lot 5415, Amethyst Path): peace and human rights activist, Window Shop Collective
- Fanny Parnell (1848-1882, Lot 167, Violet Path): Irish poet
- Gisela Warburg (1912-1991, Lot 10469, Azalea Path): helped Jewish refugees
- Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897, Lot 4389, Clethra Path): author
- Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924, Lot 2900, Oxalis Path): art collector
- Joyce Chen (1917-1994, Lot 10466, Azalea Path): entrepreneur, restaurateur
- Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910, Lot 4987, Spruce Ave.): author, abolitionist
- Louis Agassiz (1807-1873, Lot 2640, Bellwort Path): geologist, creationist
I would like to add that even though extensive research in the archives wasn’t possible due to the Covid pandemic, I have been delighted with the research process involved with making the dance. American history has never been a favorite subject for me, but working on this project piqued my curiosity and generated a feeling of excitement for the subject matter. I especially enjoyed reading The Lively Place by Stephen Kendrick and The Lowells of Massachusetts: an American Family by Nina Sancovitch.
The things that surprised me the most include turning a page in The Lowells of Massachusetts and seeing a photograph of Percy Lowell (not buried at Mount Auburn, though many Lowells are) sitting between two Korean yang bang, or upper class men in traditional horse hair hats. The next surprise involves the curiosity and pleasure I felt engaging with early revolutionary and antebellum America and local Massachusetts history. As I researched individuals and read histories and poems, I looked at maps and books with pictures of early Boston and made timelines of other historical events so I could grasp a bigger picture and put Mount Auburn specifics in context.
The cast for “The Gathering Place” consists of dancers ranging in age from 25 to 85 years of age. Some dancers are in the early stages of an artistic career, and others came to dance in midlife or after a career in another field. I tried to match commonalities between the dancers and characters.
What are the challenges and opportunities of staging the dance within the Cemetery?
Staging a public performing arts event in the Cemetery during the time of Covid creates different circumstances in which to work. Though much information is available through the Internet and video communication, I miss live interchanges, working on-site more frequently, the nuances of an in-person work environment, and live friendly social exchanges. Some challenges include adapting to rehearsing out in public space, limited access for on-site rehearsals, scheduling around other events, and adapting plans quickly and easily in case of a downturn in the pandemic or inclement weather.
On the other hand, staging a dance event within the Cemetery is a wonderful opportunity and experience. The beautiful landscapes with grassy glades and shady wooded dells provide an inspiring, pleasant, relaxing, and peaceful environment in which to work.
In addition to your artistic work, you have visited Mount Auburn for nature and meditative walks. What is your favorite place at Mount Auburn?
I love Asa Gray Garden, the views from Washington Tower, and especially the Indian Ridge and Auburn Lake area. It’s nice to be lost in the curvy back parts of the Cemetery. I enjoy the solitude of drippy foggy days in early spring when the ground is covered with large patches of blue spring flowers and the Magnolia trees at Halcyon Lake are fat with buds before the leaves come out. I like the company of the trees when I am feeling sad or lonely, and the verticality, height, and symmetry of the Dawn Redwoods.
What is your favorite season at Mount Auburn?
I have spent time during all the different seasons at Mount Auburn. During snow and ice it’s magical, in rain introspective and peaceful, mysterious and meditative in fog, and reassuring in sunshine.
The Gathering Place choreographed by Jennifer Lin
Saturday, October 23 & Sunday, October 24, 2 pm
Get your tickets today!
The Cemetery grounds are open to all visitors 8 AM – 7 PM every day. Please see below for information regarding specific buildings and amenities.
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.
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:
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:
Visit Mount Auburn
The President’s Department at Mount Auburn Cemetery is seeking an enthusiastic individual to fill the new position of Executive Assistant. Reporting to the President & CEO, this person will be responsible for providing executive administrative support primarily for the President, Executive Leadership Team and also for the Trustees to assist the Board Relations Officer with on-site tasks as requested.
• Serves as primary point of contact for internal and external constituencies (e.g., staff, Trustees, donors, cemetery users, professional contacts); answers President’s office phone, greets guests and provides exemplary hospitality.
• Provides sophisticated calendar management for the President’s schedule, scheduling appointments, integrating with the President & CEO’s personal calendar, coordinating meeting and event logistics (e.g., virtual link dissemination, room reservations, refreshments, AV needs) all while troubleshooting conflicts; making judgements and
recommendations to ensure smooth day-to-day engagements.
• Provides and fill a “gatekeeper” role, providing a bridge for smooth communication between the President & CEO and staff, demonstrating leadership to maintain credibility, trust, and support with the Executive Leadership Team.
• Prepares weekly calendar briefings which may include coordination of any necessary profiles of meeting attendees; solicits timely meeting and event briefing materials.
• Completes a broad variety of administrative tasks that facilitates the President & CEO ability to lead the organization including the preparation of written communications for the executive: drafts, produces and distributes emails, memos, spreadsheets, and complex reports.
• Coordinates business travel and time out of the office in a proactive manner.
• Completes additional special projects, data management or analysis as needed by the President or Executive Leadership Team.
• Assists with the preparation and distribution of on-site Board meeting materials as needed.
Qualifications and physical demands include but are not limited to:
• Bachelor of Arts degree or equivalent.
• Significant executive support experience, including supporting executives with a minimum of three (3) years’ experience in similar responsibilities, preferably in a non-profit organization.
• Strong computer and typing skills required; specifically, experience with Microsoft Office, including Excel, Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Familiarity with a development donor base is desirable.
• A valid driver’s license.
• Must be an open and honest communicator with co-workers and Trustees.
• Collaborative working skills, positive attitude and a sense of humor.
• Ability to complete a high volume of tasks and projects with little or no guidance.
• Able to maintain a high level of integrity and discretion in handling confidential information.
• Must have excellent organizational skills and the ability to handle multiple tasks efficiently.
• Must be a self-starter with strong initiative and the ability to work independently.
• Must be patient, energetic, creative and flexible as work demands including switching projects or tasks at a moment’s notice.
• Must be able to move within a normal office environment, accessing all records and equipment with ease.
• Must be able to move between desk, front counter, and all files.
Hours of Work: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM on Monday to Friday. Occasional evenings and weekends as required.
How to Apply: Please send a cover letter stating your career goals and objectives with a current resume, as Microsoft Word documents, and include “Executive Assistant” in the subject area, to: firstname.lastname@example.org Or by mail to: Human Resources Mount Auburn Cemetery 580 Mount Auburn St. Cambridge, MA 02138 Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. No telephone calls please.
Mount Auburn Cemetery is an equal opportunity employer.