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March 2011


First opened in 1988, Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Conservatory was made possible thanks to the vision of oil and gas pioneer Dean A. McGee (Kerr-McGee) with additional support from the Myriad Gardens Foundation, the City of Oklahoma City and a large group of dedicated volunteers. Led by McGee, city leaders commissioned world-renowned architect I.M. Pei to create a revitalization plan for downtown Oklahoma City in1964. The resulting Pei Plan incorporated parkland for the development of a cultural, recreational and commercial complex. More than just a botanical garden, Myriad was designed by the New York firm of Conklin & Rossant as a multiple use recreational and cultural destination developed to provide options and improve quality of recreational opportunities.

Today, the newly renovated Myriad Botanical Gardens is a nationally recognized garden featuring an architectural treasure, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory – an amazing 224-foot long circular jungle graced with towering palm trees, exotic plantings, crashing waterfalls and abundant animal life. As part of the dramatic $38 million revitalization, the outdoor grounds of the Myriad Gardens will be significantly transformed into a new multi-use outdoor recreation space that includes the addition of several new features: a restaurant, café, children’s garden, grand event lawn and multiple water features. Additional improvements will also be made to the Gardens’ water stage. Attractive new entry areas will invite visitors in from outside. Overall, the new design will greatly enhance the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the outdoor space.

Funds for the renovation and re-glazing of the Crystal Bridge came through the voter-approved 2007 General Obligation Bond. Funds for the Conservatory’s new south entry way, new restaurant, new band shell and all other improvements to the outdoor grounds are being funded as part of the City’s Project180 downtown improvement initiative. Monies for Project180 are being funded through the Tax Increment Financing from the construction and appraisal of the new Devon Tower, home of the Devon Energy Corporation; which when complete will be Oklahoma City’s tallest building.

Until recently, the Gardens operated as a division of the City of Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department under the guidance of the Myriad Gardens Authority, an advisory board of city government officials and private citizens appointed by the Mayor of Oklahoma City. The “new” Gardens will be an independent 501(c)3 with a projected staff of nearly 20 individuals, including current horticultural and facilities management staff that will remain on the city’s payroll, with an anticipated annual budget of $4.0 million. The Gardens and Conservatory are scheduled to reopen in spring 2011.

The Conservatory

There are more than 1,000 species of plants in the Crystal Bridge, located in two habitat regions The Tropical Rain Forest Zone, and The Dry Tropical Zone. While the plant collection in the Crystal Bridge rivals most botanical gardens across the country, several elements are outstanding including over 100 species of palms, Cycads, including Cycas, Dioon, Zamia, Bowenia, Stangeria and Encephalartos, Gingers, Bromeliads and Orchids, which easily are the most popular plants in the collection.

One of the highlights of the orchid collection is the Dendrobium superbum var. alba which explodes with over 300 blooms each February. So impressive is its show of color that the Orchid Society of America awarded this plant the “Culture of Merit” award and named the variety in honor of the Crystal Bridge. In February 2002, the Myriad Botanical Gardens received more than 1,200 orchids bequeathed to the Gardens by long-time orchid collector Mr. Fred Strothmann. The Strothmann collection is an important part of the Crystal Bridge’s year-round orchid display.

The Conservatory’s tailored education program Rainforest Ecology Activity Program (REAP) is designed to reinforce the PASS objectives (Priority Academic Student Skills), national science and state education standards. The program concentrates on specific themes in biology and ecology while employing a hands-on, inquiry-based approach. Classes are geared toward second and fourth grade, but can translate up to sixth grade. Other educational programs included docent-led and self-guided tours and a Junior Master Gardener program.


The Director, who will be an entrepreneur and visionary, will provide the leadership, direction, management and other resources necessary to bring the Myriad Botanical Gardens to its fullest potential as an exciting multi-purposed botanical garden, conservatory and cultural/social resource for downtown Oklahoma City. The Director will oversee the completion of the dramatic renovation of the Gardens and create and implement an aggressive strategy for programming, fundraising, constituency building. The individual will work closely with current staff, volunteers and Foundation members and will have the overall responsibility for the growth and development of the Gardens including the re-launch of the conservatory and other horticultural elements, and the creation of educational programs and cultural events to attract and engage the public.

The Director will develop and coordinate all commercial aspects of the Gardens, including special events - concerts, weddings, meetings – and other rental opportunities, collaborative ventures and concessions that are currently under development. These include a planned restaurant and ice skating pavilion, boat rentals, and activities within the mixed use children’s garden. Externally, as a spokesperson and fundraiser, the Director will cultivate a network of community and business leaders, policy makers, major donors and the media in support of the Garden’s programs and activities.
In collaboration with and reporting to the Myriad Gardens Foundation, which provides financial support and other resources, the Director will achieve the organization’s mission and vision through a lively, creatively programmed, well managed institution that: develops the Myriad Gardens as a multi-purpose park, positions it as a destination for horticulturalists, gardeners and nature enthusiasts; attracts significant levels of financial and member/volunteer support; and serves as a vehicle for the continued economic growth of the downtown area.


Priorities during the first 12 to 18 months will be to:

  • Understand and further the vision and mission of the Myriad Botanical Gardens; become familiar with the institutional history, its key players, constituents, and funding sources, and most importantly, understand and capitalize on its potential;

  • Forge a strong working relationship with the Foundation Board, the Garden’s Horticulturalist and other city employees on the Myriad Gardens staff, understanding their roles past, present and future and fostering their ideas, creativity, contacts and energies;

  • Hire, manage, motivate, and nurture key senior leadership including Chief Development, Marketing and Finance Officers; build and maintain a collegial staff structure and delegate appropriate responsibility and accountability among staff and volunteers;

  • Oversee annual fundraising; establish relationships with potential individual, foundation and corporate donors, attracting the support necessary to allow the Gardens to continue to grow; leverage existing naming opportunities and other fundraising vehicles to establish a grow a meaningful endowment that will allow the Gardens to become self-sustaining;

  • Thoroughly understand the Gardens’ programs outreach and programming; know who the organization is serving, how the programs are structured and funded, how money is spent and what it costs to effectively deliver programs and services;

  • With the Horticulturalist, oversee the strategy and growth of the conservatory to achieve recognition as a destination where visitors can learn about and appreciate the botanical aspects of the Gardens, its origins, plant collection and the science behind the collection;

  • Build and sustain relationships with cultural, educational and governmental agencies and community groups including theatre and arts programs, social and religious organizations and the broader community interested in the Gardens;

  • Establish collegial relationships and work with the Myriad Gardens Foundation and senior management team; support and nurture the redevelopment of the Foundation and its membership;


The Director will also be expected to:

  • Oversee the development, preservation and maintenance of the Garden’s physical assets; ensure, by effective leadership, that the day-to-day operations and programs of the Gardens are professional and efficiently administered;

  • In collaboration with the Foundation Board, develop short- and long-range plans for the Gardens; continually ensure that programs and activities are evaluated and updated and are congruent with the institution’s mission and goals;

  • Manage the Gardens in a fiscally responsible manner, taking into consideration the financial implications of programming, as well as the significant potential of facilities lease/rental agreements; work with the Foundation Board, and the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation to develop and implement the institution’s annual budget; report regularly on the Gardens’ fiscal performance;

  • Expand and enhance the marketing, public relations, and communications efforts for the Gardens in order to attract visitors to the new facilities;

  • Serve as an articulate, persuasive and passionate advocate and spokesperson for the Gardens; represent the institution to its constituencies, including the public, funders, civic and private agencies, and the media.


The ideal candidate will be an energetic and entrepreneurial individual who will have the following experience and qualifications:

  • Senior level leadership and management experience with a significant garden, arboretum, historic property, agency or related educational or environmental institution known for quality, and/or a measurable track record on issues of land use, horticulture, community development and other environmental issues;

  • Proven record of success in raising funds from a variety of sources, including the cultivation and solicitation of gifts from individual donors; experience partnering with volunteers and working closely with a not-for-profit board of directors;

  • A knowledge of the kind of programming that attracts and engages audiences and is financially viable; experience defining and building membership;

  • Outstanding management, organizational and planning skills and an attention to detail, including budget control; experience in a redevelopment or start-up venture is a plus;

  • Superior communications and presentation skills that are effective with a range of audiences including volunteers, staff, business and community leaders, the media, and the general public;

  • An undergraduate degree is required; an advanced degree in business or other appropriate discipline is preferred.


The Director should be or have:

  • Passionate about the role and impact of public parks and gardens;

  • Charismatic, energetic and dynamic; able to articulate a vision and inspire staff, colleagues, volunteers and others; a strong and capable presence who inspires confidence in and enthusiasm for the Gardens;

  • A skilled manager who can effect change; someone who can delegate, handle and prioritize multiple activities and responsibilities with clarity and confidence;

  • An individual with high integrity who is committed to excellence, who practices good judgment and exudes ease, credibility, a sense of humor and a delight in the work at hand; an outgoing “people person” adept at creating and maintaining relationships that are critical to the success of the Gardens;

  • One who can appreciate and articulate the natural beauty and boundless resources of the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory.

Applications and nominations should be sent to Mark J. Tarnacki at:

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