The President's Circle


DaffodilsFinally, May!

As spring unfolds, the Garden flourishes, with visitors of all ages enjoying the warmer temperatures, programs, classes, and breathtaking beauty. The tulips are at their peak, and the flowering trees—serviceberry, lilac, and crabapple—are filling the Garden with color every day. This is the moment to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden—8 a.m. to sunset!

A highlight of my tenure at the Garden was this April’s American Daffodil Society National Show and Convention. More than half a million daffodils were in full bloom—inside and out; Bird Island’s naturalized array beautifully complemented the formal arrangement of 14 classes of daffodils and bright yellow forsythia greeting visitors outside the Visitor Center.

And greet visitors they did. After closing the books on an amazing April in which membership’s year-to-date budget deficit was eliminated, May has started out with another record: nearly 300 new memberships were sold on-site during the first weekend of May (the past record for a May weekend was 185). The Garden has never been more relevant to people’s lives and I hope that what we are doing feels special to you. Let’s keep the momentum going…consider giving memberships as gifts this spring; they are terrific for teachers or new graduates.

There are many terrific programs at the Garden in the next few weeks. Exclusive to the President’s Circle is “Roll Up Your Sleeves and Dig In” on Saturday, May 30. This native planting day, geared toward adults and families with children over eight years old, will take place at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden and be led by horticulturist Rick Belding. By planting native plant species, President’s Circle members will help attract important pollinators. Over the last few years we have seen a decline in the quality of fruit and vegetable production as the pollinators needed to pollinate these plants have become scarce. Following the planting, beehives will be installed to help facilitate the pollinating process. A President’s Circle member has generously underwritten the beehives. I hope to see you there.

Also, please register now for World Environment Day, Friday, June 5. The theme this year is urban farming. We will be discussing its benefits and challenges, and have a remarkable schedule of events at the Garden that day. We only have room for 180 people and seats are filling up quickly.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to Susan Stone and Michael Busch. Just under two years ago, Susan and Michael accepted the challenge to create the President’s Circle as the Garden’s premier donor circle—developing a “club” of Chicago Botanic Garden friends with behind-the-scenes access to all the Garden has to offer. For the past two years, Susan and Michael have served with commitment, dedication, creativity, rigor, and joy, and my most profound appreciation goes out to both of them.

After careful consideration, Susan and Michael, with my support and the support of board chairman Will Hagenah, decided that the term of service of the co-chairs of the President’s Circle would be two years, with staggered ending dates to allow for smooth transition. Therefore, this June, timed to coincide with the Garden’s annual meeting of its board of directors, Susan’s tenure as co-chair will come to a close. Susan will remain active on our board and the President’s Circle Steering Committee.

I am very grateful to Michael, who has agreed to serve until June 2010, and am delighted to announce that longtime Garden and board member Jane O’Neil will join Michael as co-chair. Jane’s Garden leadership has been consistent and remarkable—giving valuable input to public programs, such as Wonderland Express and the Antiques & Garden Fair, as well as to catering, food service, and donor events.

I hope you will have an opportunity to welcome Jane and to thank Susan personally. Please know that the success of the President’s Circle is due in large part to Susan’s innovative efforts.

I am delighted by the positive feedback from President’s Circle members who have attended the exclusive President’s Circle events at the Garden. I always enjoy hearing from each and every one of you.

Please know it is truly an honor and privilege for me to be part of the Chicago Botanic Garden. As always, thank you for your continued support as a President’s Circle member and I hope to see you at the Garden soon. Call me for a walk so I don’t miss the spring flowers!


Sophia Siskel
President & CEO
Chicago Botanic Garden