Botanical Garden Hires Director


— The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks looked to expertise in fundraising and networking with other nonprofit groups, local governments and donors as its top criteria when it hired Ron Cox as its new executive director.

“He is ideal for what we need for the next 29 months to get us to financial sustainability,” said Walt Eilers, president of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks Board of Directors. Cox’s executive director position is being funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which has roughly two and half more years of funding remaining.

Cox, a Fayetteville resident, formerly served as vice president of network development for St. Edward Mercy Medical Center in Fort Smith. He is also a certified fundraising executive with the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

What Cox lacks in professional gardening and horticultural experience, he brings in knowledge of philanthropy, Eilers said.

“Even if he were to write 1,000 books on horticulture and gardening, without the funding we can’t exist,” Eilers said.

Cox was chosen from 27 applicants, Eilers said. He’s taking the place of Rae Von Holdt, who resigned in May after six months on the job because of personal health reasons. Von Holdt is a professional horticulturist.

In the latest director search, the garden board looked to three criteria: demonstrated experience in fundraising, demonstrated experience in operating a nonprofit organization and demonstrated experience working with local government.

“The depth of (Cox’s) experience in both fundraising and nonprofit management, his proven track record of successes, and his demonstrated commitment to the greater Northwest Arkansas community make him the perfect fit with our mission and will ensure the success of the garden,” Eilers said in a statement.

“The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is a valuable cultural amenity for all of Northwest Arkansas and contributes to the quality of life for all NWA communities,” Cox said in a statement. “The garden is supported by many individuals, groups and businesses throughout the area, and I am honored to have been selected as its next executive director. I look forward to working with the garden’s outstanding board of directors, talented staff and generous volunteer corps in completing the Botanical Garden master plan, growing the garden’s membership and expanding its educational and cultural programs.”