Exploring the Balance of People and Nature with Zhonghe (Elena) Li

July 5, 2021

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 Zhonghe (Elena) Li and learn about her project, “The Art of Living Together.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.

As a person, I have always felt a deep connection with nature. To me nature is the source of spirituality and artistic inspirations. I cherish the Taoist wisdom of “being one with Nature” (“天人合一”) and the Yin-Yang balance. Diversity is a measure of balance, while over-dominance indicts a loss of balance. As an artist, art is a way to find my true self, a way to connect, a way to cure, and a way to express and make some impact. Through time, I have tried many different media and art forms, such as painting, drawing, papercutting, print making, book art, short film, animation, etc.


In the Words of Edward Everett, Mount Auburn’s Early Advocate

July 1, 2021

Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts Edward Everett (1794-1865) achieved national renown as an orator and politician of the Civil War era. History remembers him for his speech, approximately 13,000 words, at the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863. President Abraham Lincoln followed Everett with his 272-word Gettysburg Address. Everett then famously wrote to Lincoln, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”[1]

Not as well-known is the role Everett’s eloquence and support played in the creation of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Formerly chair of Greek literature at Harvard and pastor for a Unitarian church in Boston, Everett also became a founder and a trustee of Mount Auburn.[2] He was on the Cemetery and Garden Committee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to establish a cemetery outside of Boston in 1831. Other members of the committee, and founders of Mount Auburn, included the physician and botanist Jacob Bigelow, and politician and horticulturist Henry A. S. Dearborn.


Climate Action & Sustainability Plan

July 1, 2021

If we genuinely care about future generations, we must act now to protect planet Earth. The effects of climate change are clear, and it will take all working together to reduce the devastating damage happening here at home and around the globe. It is time for bold action!

Mount Auburn took a new bold step in June 2021 with the formal adoption by the Board of Trustees of a Climate Action and Sustainability Plan. The ambitious goals outlined in this new Plan aim to make the Cemetery carbon neutral by the year 2050 while also addressing broader environmental, social, and economic concerns. The Plan builds upon decades of ecologically sensitive best practices to further reduce the impacts of Mount Auburn’s landscape maintenance, burial, and cremation activities. The Plan also outlines goals to create a resilient and healthy ecosystem that benefits Mount Auburn’s flora and fauna while ensuring that all staff and visitors are valued, respected, and engaged. Lastly, the Plan makes an institutional commitment to align our financial investments with our values and the environmental and social stances we support. Ultimately, this Plan is about reducing what we take while increasing what we give back to the planet and the community.

The formal adoption of a Climate Action and Sustainability Plan marks the achievement of a significant milestone in Mount Auburn’s broader 18-Month Strategic Bridge Plan. With initiatives organized into three themes – Openness and Welcome, Beauty and Serenity, and Stewardship and Sustainability – the Bridge Plan will strengthen Mount Auburn’s core mission and build a foundation to support its future aspirations.


Mount Auburn’s Climate Action and Sustainability Plan’s ambitious goals address environmental, social, and economic concerns. Goals in the Plan include:

Achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Build resilience to environmental stress by increasing the biodiversity of Mount Auburn’s plant collections.

Create healthy conditions for urban wildlife.

Connect the community with Mount Auburn’s landscape through thoughtful educational programming and increased volunteer opportunities.

Inspire individuals, peer organizations, and communities to be sustainable by sharing our knowledge and celebrating our successes.


Read, print, or download the entire Climate Action and Sustainability Plan below.

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.