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The Friends of the Botanic Garden Leadership Council

A New Charter, A New Chair and a Dedicated Mission

betsy anderson

Friends Leadership Council President Betsy Anderson '04.


Published May 31, 2023

Leaflet 2023

The Botanic Garden of Smith College is thrilled to announce that Betsy Anderson ’04 will become chair of the Friends of the Botanic Garden Leadership Council on July 1, 2023. Anderson is a landscape architect for the National Park Service where she facilitates both landscape-scale and site-based planning and design projects for national parks. With her background in gardens, and her steadfast support of the botanic garden as an irreplaceable resource for Smithies, we’re grateful to have her lead the efforts of our Friends group.

“For me, one of the reasons that the botanic garden is such a treasure is how welcoming it is to everyone,” Anderson says. “When I was a student, I was a French major. But I always had a home in the garden. The ability to connect people to plants from all disciplines is so special.”

While the Friends of the Botanic Garden Leadership Council was officially established in 2022, the roots of the group date back to 1992. That year, two dedicated alums, Paula Deitz Morgan ’59 and Susan Komroff Cohen ’62, started a membership program, the Friends of the Botanic Garden of Smith College. Their intention was to establish a strong base of financial support for the botanic garden, to keep Smithies involved and informed about the work happening at the botanic garden, and to ensure that the botanic garden prospered financially and intellectually.

Along with the Friends of the Botanic Garden, a committee of steadfast alum supporters was established. This group, originally called the Botanic Garden Visiting Committee and later known as the Advisory Committee for the Friends of the Botanic Garden, championed important projects, including endowing the Kew Internship at England’s Royal Botanic Gardens through the Muriel Kohn Pokross ’34 Travel/Internship Fund and securing funding to establish the college’s landscape studies program.

Over the past four years, under the leadership of Sue Ann Levin Schiff ’69, the advisory committee redefined itself, establishing a more formal operational and leadership structure and strengthening the connection with the college’s alumnae relations and development offices. Among its goals are creating opportunities for alums to experience the botanic garden both remotely and when on campus, growing membership in the Friends of the Botanic Garden, and increasing the botanic garden’s capacity to raise needed funds.

The process culminated in a governing charter adopted on April 15, 2022, and a new name for the group: the Friends of the Botanic Garden of Smith College Leadership Council, which began its first full year of operation on July 1, 2022.

Schiff, now retired, whose wide-ranging career includes work as a lawyer, corporate executive, higher education administrator and nonprofit leader, most recently as executive director of San Francisco Botanical Garden, joined the Friends Advisory Committee in 2014. In 2022, she became the inaugural chair of the Leadership Council. 
“Sue Ann Schiff led the Friends Leadership Council with strength and vision over the course of the pandemic and has built the foundation for its next phase of growth. She has been a generous thought partner, an indispensable wealth of knowledge, and a valued mentor to me,” says Tim Johnson, director of the botanic garden.

“This is a team effort. We are inspired and guided by Tim’s vision and plans and how they are enriching the experience of students, the entire college community, and the botanic world beyond,” says Schiff. “Our charter provides a framework for creativity and initiative as we work with Tim, his staff, and alumnae relations and development to support the botanic garden and the college. I am thrilled that Betsy Anderson, who has led our planning for alum engagement, will now bring her care, insight and experience to her role as the Friends Leadership Council’s next chair.”

In the coming years, the council will play a critical role in helping the college realize its vision for the Landscape Master Plan, explore how Lyman Plant House and Conservatory can be updated to meet the needs of the college today, and bring exciting new botanical exhibits to the region.

Anderson looks forward to assuming the role of chair. “I have learned so much from the diversity and breadth of perspectives and talent in our group. Even though we’ve all done different things with our lives and in our careers, we’re coming together with our shared love of the botanic garden, which is the place where many of us first came to love plants. Being able to collaborate with such inspiring colleagues is an honor. Smith alums are incredible people to be around.”

Two Leadership Council members will complete their terms this June. Susan Goodall ’83 joined in 2014, led the subcommittee that became the Leadership Council’s governance committee, and served as the committee’s inaugural chair. Shirley Mah Kooyman ’73 also joined in 2014 and served on the Leadership Council’s alum engagement committee. Four other alums, who completed their terms earlier, were part of the team that planned the restructuring—Diana Xochitl Munn ’95, Connie Parks ’83, Alex Julius ’09 and Rachel Blake ’09. “It’s been an honor to work with all of these individuals,” says Johnson. “Their insights as alums and professionals have been instrumental in launching the Leadership Council, and in reminding us that our strength is rooted in connecting current Smithies, alums and our supporters to plants, to the environment and to each other.”