July 1, 2021 – New York City-based Phillips Oppenheim has placed not-for-profit executive Jennifer Bernstein as president and CEO of The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Sarah James and Becky Klein led the assignment. Ms. Bernstein becomes the 10th leader of the 130-year-old institution following an extensive, nine-month, international search that included a diverse and wide range of prospects. To ensure a smooth transition between administrations, Ms. Bernstein will be working closely with J.V. Cossaboom, NYBG’s interim president and CEO. “I think I can speak for the staff in saying we are looking forward to working with an energetic and focused leader like Jennifer,” said Mr. Cossaboom.
“I am highly confident that Jennifer Bernstein will lead us forward into an exciting and impactful future, building upon the extraordinarily solid foundation we have at NYBG,” said J. Barclay Collins, chair of The New York Botanical Garden’s board of trustees. “She brings enormous energy, enthusiasm and expertise to her role. Her exceptional professional experience in arts and culture, education and environmental protection presents a unique and valuable confluence of expertise for our institution. Our board is excited to work with her to frame how this next generation will advance in innovative ways the garden’s mission in science, education and horticulture, and in community engagement.”
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Ms. Bernstein is a proven leader with exceptional management experience in fundraising and board development for cultural, educational and environmental organizations. She brings two decades of non-profit management and fundraising experience. Ms. Bernstein joins the Botanical Garden from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) where she served as chief development officer and interim chief operations officer. At NRDC, she designed and executed an ongoing $1 billion fundraising campaign while overseeing a team of nearly 100 professionals. Previously, she led record fundraising efforts at Pace University and managed individual and corporate giving at the Playwrights Horizons theater in Manhattan. She also served in various capacities at Roundabout Theatre Company, New York University and CCS Fundraising.
“I’m honored to join The New York Botanical Garden, a world-renowned institution fueled by the spirit of New York City in its advocacy for the plant world,” said Ms. Bernstein. “I am committed to the Garden’s mission to protect the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, and I am humbled by the opportunity to partner with its esteemed Board of Trustees and to lead its talented, dedicated staff in this critical work.”
Founded in 1891, and now a National Historic Landmark, The New York Botanical Garden is one of the most highly regarded botanical gardens in the world and the largest in the U.S. NYBG’s threefold mission to lead globally in science, education and horticulture, and the myriad ways that can be experienced and championed in the plant kingdom continues to distinguish it. Today the Garden is an urban oasis defined by living collections comprising more than one million plants, spectacular display gardens; cited science, conservation, education and public programs; community partnerships that serve beyond its borders; and award-winning architecture across its 250-acre campus.
Finding Mission-Driven Leaders
Phillips Oppenheim, founded in 1991, provides mission-driven organizations with senior leaders from the business, public and non-profit sectors. It sponsors roundtable discussions, participates in workshops and conferences and acts as informal counsel to non-profit organizations and their boards. Among its many clients: New York City Ballet, the Museum of the American Revolution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Arts Club, Table to Table, the African Wildlife Foundation and the Barack Obama Presidential Museum, and others.
Ms. James has been recruiting for local, national, and international non-profit institutions and corporations since 1996. A generalist, she has recruited chief executives for leading arts, aid, advocacy, education, environmental, faith-based, healthcare, philanthropic and social service institutions. Since joining Phillips Oppenheim in 2001, she has founded its visual arts practice, recruiting directors for more than 100 art institutions.
Ms. Klein has combined search experience with the arts during her professional career. She joined Phillips Oppenheim in 1993, became a partner in the firm in 2000 and serves as the firm’s managing partner. While bringing a special focus on cultural institutions, Ms. Klein has worked with a diverse range of clients including foundations, social justice, advocacy organizations and academic institutions across the U.S. and internationally.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media