American Horticultural Society appoints new leader


AHS's incoming president and CEO, Suzanne Laporte (Credit: American Horticultural Society)

The American Horticultural Society (AHS), headquartered at River Farm, announced the appointment of a new president and chief executive officer (CEO), effective March 21.

Suzanne Laporte, a leader in the nonprofit consulting space with extensive business and marketing experience, will focus on managing AHS’s overall operations and working collaboratively with the AHS Board of Directors and stakeholders “to ensure a smooth transition to a forward-thinking organization positioned for growth and long-term success,” noted an AHS press release from March 11

Laporte comes to AHS from Compass — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides pro bono strategic consulting to other nonprofits — where she served as president and CEO since 2007. Before that, she held marketing positions for the consulting practices of PwC and IBM, and worked in the publishing and financial services industries.

AHS's announcement said the revitalization of River Farm as the home base for AHS’s national horticultural programs will be a key focus for Laporte and the AHS Board. That includes working with the board’s River Farm Committee to “identify long-term funding, planning and maintenance requirements for the property, including addressing the most pressing needs for repair and renovation of the buildings, grounds and gardens.”

Early spring scene from River Farm's shade garden

AHS’s former director Keith Tomlinson, who joined the organization last fall, will continue to advise the AHS Board on horticultural matters in an informal, volunteer capacity, according to AHS Board Chair Marcia Zech, who thanked Tomlinson “for helping us during our transition period.”

Last October, the AHS Board announced that the nonprofit’s headquarters would remain at River Farm, following a year-long debate over the property’s future and a well-publicized “Save River Farm” campaign by state and local stakeholders. The following month, River Farm officially reopened to the public. AHS, which is celebrating its centennial this year, recently announced plans to hold its traditional Spring Garden Market at River Farm in April after a two-year hiatus.

[Note: The author is a former employee of the American Horticultural Society.]

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