American Horticultural Society names new president


The Board of Directors of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) announced on Friday the appointment of Suzanne Laporte, former CEO of Friends of Compass, Inc, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that provides free strategic advice to d other nonprofit organizations. The new CEO/President of the company.

The news is a turning point for AHS, which weathered a storm of controversy when its 27-acre headquarters property, River Farm, was put up for sale for $32 million.

Plans to sell the historic property have drawn protests from community members concerned about the development. Local and state government officials became involved, creating a historic overlay district on the property, which would have limited the type of development that could occur if the property were sold.

Shortly after the 10-member council decided to reject offers from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust to buy or co-own the property, five council members who supported the sale of the property, the executive director of the AHS and several other staff members resigned.

In October, it was taken off the market, and the surrounding community and others concerned about the historic property breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Laporte arrives on board March 21 and will take the helm as AHS celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

“We are thrilled to welcome Suzanne to our AHS team,” said Marcia Zech, Chair of the AHS Board of Directors.

“Suzanne brings a unique perspective and holistic approach to nonprofit management that will help inform all of our work. Additionally, she will be a key partner in our efforts to lay the foundation to achieve our national horticultural mission,” said Zech.

“It is truly an honor to join AHS during the Society’s 100th anniversary year,” said Laporte. “I look forward to working with the entire AHS team to help strengthen the organization to continue its important work.”

Revitalizing River Farm as the home base for AHS’s national horticulture programs will also be a priority for Laporte and the board this year. Laporte will work closely with the River Farm Committee of the Board to identify long-term financing, planning and maintenance needs for the property, including addressing the most urgent repair and maintenance needs. renovation of buildings, grounds and gardens.

A parallel objective will be to explore options for maximizing programmatic opportunities to reach large national audiences. “River Farm is a stunning place of natural beauty with immeasurable historical and cultural significance to our region and our nation,” Laporte said.

“It’s a place where AHS can literally ‘live the mission’ to honor our nation’s horticultural history while positioning the organization as a leader in innovative gardening practices,” she noted. . “I look forward to identifying creative ways to leverage this extraordinary asset in advancing AHS’ national mission while helping to protect the good for future generations,” she said.

Laporte will focus on managing the overall operations of the Society and will work collaboratively with the AHS Board of Directors and stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to a forward-thinking organization positioned for growth and success at long term. With expertise in nonprofit leadership, program innovation, capacity building, strategic planning, financial management, team building and community engagement, communications, marketing, and governance of the board, she is well equipped to lead AHS at this critical time in the Company’s history, according to AHS.

Laporte will continue to build on the stewardship and transition accomplishments of former director Keith Tomlinson, who helped AHS emerge from the challenges caused by the pandemic and responded to immediate operational needs, particularly related to the reopening of River Farm and the initial launch of garden clean-up and maintenance efforts.

Tomlinson will continue to advise the AHS board on horticultural matters on an informal, pro bono basis, according to board chairman Zech.

“We are grateful to Keith for helping us during our transition period and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with him,” said Zech.

“Suzanne’s appointment as President and CEO, combined with the gardening expertise of our on-site team, including an exceptional group of volunteer gardeners, ensures that we have both experienced executive leadership and horticultural knowledge to help us chart a positive new course,” noted Zech.

“As we celebrate our 100th anniversary in 2022, the board believes that Suzanne is the right person at the right time to help us launch the next 100 years,” Zech said.

As President and CEO of Compass, Laporte significantly increased Compass’s impact by innovating to meet the changing needs of nonprofit organizations and the individuals and communities they serve, AHS noted.

Previously, Laporte held marketing positions for the consulting firms of PwC and IBM. In the publishing industry, Laporte was an editor at working woman magazine and a marketing director for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Early in her career, she worked at Smith Barney, Chase Manhattan Bank and Capital Cities/ABC.

She has an AB from Smith College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was editor of the weekly, The Harbus. In 2014, the Washington Business Journal rewarded Laporte with its “Women Who Mean Business” award.


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