Top Honor Presented by Arbor Day Foundation
Dr. Gerard T. Donnelly, President and CEO of The Morton Arboretum near Chicago, has received the J. Sterling Morton Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation. This prestigious award recognizes an outstanding individual for positive impact on the environment due to lifelong commitment to tree-planting and conservation at national and international levels.
The award was presented over Arbor Day weekend, April 29-30, in Nebraska City, birthplace of the tree-planting holiday that J. Sterling Morton started in 1872. His son Joy Morton established The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, in 1922, building upon the legacy expressed through the family motto, “Plant Trees.”
The Morton Arboretum features plant collections and natural areas on 1,700 acres, delivers education and outreach programs, and conducts scientific research in support of its mission to save and plant trees for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.
Trained as a botanist and forest ecologist at Michigan State University, Dr. Donnelly has been in the lead position at The Morton Arboretum since 1990. He has led the establishment of ArbNet and the Chicago Region Trees Initiative. Also related to his profession, he has provided leadership roles for the American Public Gardens Association and the Directors of Large Gardens network. He is currently on the boards of Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the International Association of Botanic Gardens, and he has been active in partnerships to further the goals of the Global Trees Campaign.
Specific to the American Public Gardens Association, he served as president (1997-1999), led the host committee for the annual conference in Chicago (2005), and received the Service Award (2008) and Honorary Life Member Award (2013).
Dr. Donnelly oversees a workforce of 400 employees and 1,300 volunteers. Serving 1,000,000 visitors and 44,000 members on an annual basis, The Morton Arboretum works to inspire participation in the tree-planting mission begun by its namesake family.