It was back in 1977 that the City of Dallas Park Board “recommended that the grounds of the DeGolyer Estate, which the city purchased from SMU, be the official location of the botanical garden.” Three years later, in 1980, $1M was raised to purchase the adjoining 22-acre Alex Camp House estate. In 1984 the 66-acre Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden was “open to the public for the first time.”
Over the next dozen years the grounds remained a beautiful sanctuary, but the Arboretum needed to be more than just a pretty place. In 1996 Mary Brinegar took the helm of the property. She admitted that her expertise was in fundraising and nonprofit management, not botany. But she was a quick learner and soon realized that the grounds had so much more to offer, especially when it came to education and entertainment. She quickly developed a green thumb to grow the Arboretum into a nationally recognized treasure with round-the-year activities and incredible venues like Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden and A Tasteful Place.
Early on, Mary’s strategy was that these activities and developments had to complement the Arboretum’s natural beauty.
As a sign of her success, the Texas Society of Architects has just presented Mary with an Honorary AIA Membership, “the highest award that the organization bestows on an individual for outstanding achievements in support of the profession of architecture, the built environment and quality of life in Texas.”
According to 2019 Texas Society of Architects President Mike Hellinghausen, AIA, “Mary has served as president and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum for more than 20 years. In her time there, she has transformed the park from an underfunded local attraction into an internationally acclaimed public garden. Working with architects and designers, she’s restored historic structures in the park and create new environments to elevate the public’s experience. The park now draws more than one million guests each year.
Former Dallas Arboretum Chair Mark Wolf, AIA, who was involved in the nomination, added, “Mary has devoted her career to growing and managing nonprofits at a high level of excellence. She has done so with careful attention to detail and an ability to create new structures while preserving historic ones. Mary is first and without fail a diligent steward of the organization’s resources as well as an outstanding ambassador for its mission. Her attitude and commitment enables the organization’s goals and successes to be paramount.”