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Press Release

Drake Fowler, deputy executive director, will lead the Arboretum

RALEIGH, N.C. – University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans this week appointed Drake Fowler as the new executive director of The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.

Fowler, who has served as the Arboretum’s chief financial officer and deputy executive director since 2015, will succeed George Briggs, who recently announced his retirement as executive director after 37 years of leadership. Fowler’s appointment becomes effective August 1.

“Drake Fowler has the skills, knowledge and passion to cultivate a bountiful future for The North Carolina Arboretum,” Hans said. “He has worked closely with founding Director George Briggs for nearly a decade, and the two have collaborated on major new features and educational programs for this special place. Under their leadership, the Arboretum has become one of America’s most treasured public gardens.”

Fowler, a licensed and award-winning landscape architect, has for nearly a decade managed the Arboretum’s annual operating budget, currently $10 million in public and private funds. He has overseen the finance, development, horticulture, facilities, and information technology departments, leading more than $5 million in capital improvements. During his tenure, he has focused on building the Arboretum’s financial stability through grants, contributed funds, and earned revenue, and led the process of renovating most of the key facilities in the gardens.

“With the Arboretum’s unique and breathtaking setting, we have the opportunity to impact so many. It is the Arboretum’s focus on education that excites me most about the future; we will continue to inspire the next generation of students, aid those who are currently seeking their degree, and support the many who are lifelong learners.” Fowler said. “Our success has been built by great leadership, committed staff, passionate members, generous donors and by integrating design process and creativity into all that the Arboretum does. The future is bright and the Arboretum will continue to look for ways to broaden our impact across the 17 campuses of the UNC system, throughout North Carolina and to all who visit.”

Prior to joining the Arboretum, Fowler managed operations for Design Workshop, an international, award-winning landscape architectural firm, in both the Asheville office and the flagship office in Denver, Colorado. Serving the American Public Garden Association as chair of the Chief Financial Officer Working Group, Fowler fostered a collaborative platform for CFOs to share strategy and benchmarked financial data among more than 600 American public gardens. He holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Michigan State University and a Master of Business Administration from Western Carolina University, and is the current president of the North Carolina chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The North Carolina Arboretum comprises 434 acres of public gardens, forest, and trails located in Pisgah National Forest, and was established as a UNC System affiliate in 1986. Over the ensuing 37 years, it has grown into a destination for exploration, education, research, and economic development. It now serves more than 600,000 annual visitors and 100,000 students throughout North Carolina and garners support from over 20,000 household memberships. The North Carolina Arboretum’s mission is to advance our state’s future by creatively connecting people, plants and places through education, design and economic development.