People

 

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in New York State, the Garden Conservancy was founded in 1989 by renowned plantsman Frank Cabot. Today, our board of directors is composed of 26 men and women from across the country, led by Courtnay S. Daniels, Board Chair, and Robert M. Balentine, Vice Chair.

THE GARDEN CONSERVANCY BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Officers

Courtnay S. Daniels, Board Chair
Greenwood, VA

Courtnay Daniels joined the Garden Conservancy board of directors in 2006, became Vice-Chairman in 2011, and was elected Chair in September 2018. She has opened her garden to the public through the Garden Conservancy Open Days and for our Society of Fellows garden-study tours. Courtnay is a long-time member of the Garden Club of America and a former partner in a small greenhouse business. She has served on the boards of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, and has supported a variety of projects at the University of Virginia. 

Over the last twenty years, Courtnay has created a series of garden rooms, diverse shrub borders, greenhouses, and arboretum on more than twenty-nine acres at her home, Whilton Farm, an expansive pastoral landscape in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal described her garden as having “one of the largest collections of rare plants in the country.”

Robert M. Balentine, Vice Chair
Atlanta, GA 

Robert Balentine, chairman and CEO of Balentine, the Atlanta-based wealth management firm, was elected to the Garden Conservancy board of directors in June 2015 and became Vice Chair in September 2018. An inveterate, dirt-under-the-fingernails gardener with a rosarian as his father and Garden Club of America horticulture judge as his mother, Robert’s love of the natural world developed at an early age, hiking and camping as an Eagle Scout.

In 2002, Robert founded the Southern Highlands Reserve, a nationally recognized native plant arboretum and research center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. He has also held many other leadership positions in his community, including founding president of the Southeastern Horticultural Society and chairman of the board of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He is past president of the Rotary Club of Atlanta and a graduate of Washington & Lee University, where he served as a trustee for nearly a decade. Among other civic and business honors, he received the 2013 Business Person of the Year Lifetime Achievement award from the Metro Atlanta Chamber and was named to the Atlanta Business Chronicle's list of Most Admired CEOs in 2018. His wife, Betty, shares his passion for gardening and is past president of her Garden Club of America club in Atlanta and chairman of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. 

James Brayton Hall, President and Chief Executive Officer
Beacon, NY

James Hall joined the Garden Conservancy as president and CEO in June 2017. For the previous four years, he was deputy director of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he worked on the planning and design of the Norman Foster-designed museum expansion and sculpture gardens. From 2010 to 2013, he was executive director of the Providence Preservation Society in Rhode Island, overseeing all programming, fundraising, and relations with the board, donors, and community. From 2006 to 2010, James served as assistant director of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, after holding various other management and curatorial positions at the school since 1985. 

James has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and a master’s in landscape architecture from Rhode Island School of Design. In addition, he was awarded a Royal Oak Scholarship to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School in Architectural and Landscape History in London, and, separately, participated in the Victorian Society’s summer program in architectural history, also in London. In 2016, he was accepted to and completed Attingham’s Royal Collections Course. He has spoken widely on architectural and landscape design and has been a member of the graduate program faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Susan Payson Burke, Secretary
New York, NY

Susan Burke gardens in multiple locations, beginning 35 years ago with a cottage garden around an 1805 farmhouse in Bedford, New York. She has been working on her “garden by the sea” on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, for twenty years, and began work on a quasi-Japanese garden at her home in Florida three years ago. Her Nantucket garden was archived for the Smithsonian in 2012. She serves on the board of the New York Botanical Garden and on the horticulture committee at Wave Hill, Bronx, New York, and the board of the Irish Georgian Society. She is a member of the Bedford Garden Club, which was a founding member of the Garden Club of America. In addition, Susan has served on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She is former public relations and publicity director for Bergdorf Goodman, vice president of Calisch Associates, and advertising director at Frances Denny; and worked in marketing and public relations for Moet and Chandon.

Susan has been involved with the Garden Conservancy since our very early days, serving on our founding advisory committee in 1989. She joined our board of directors in 2002; in 2019, she was elected Secretary. Susan organized the first and many subsequent Garden Conservancy Open Days on Nantucket, and has hosted many Open Days at her garden in Bedford, NY.

Sharon J. Pryse, Treasurer
Knoxville, TN

An Atlanta native, Sharon Jones Pryse attended the University of Tennessee, graduating with a degree in finance, and has never considered leaving Knoxville since then. While still in her twenties, she became the youngest senior vice president at the Valley Fidelity Bank; at age thirty-five, she founded the Trust Company of Tennessee. Today, the Trust Company manages more than $3.8 billion in assets and employs 82 people in three cities. Sharon’s long-standing community commitment includes social service, the arts, economic development, and education. She has served as board chair for the Knoxville Chamber, Leadership Knoxville, YMCA, United Way, and has also chaired United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. Sharon supports the university that made Knoxville her home and has served on the University of Tennessee board of trustees as well as on board of directors for the U.T. Foundation.

An avid gardener as well as traveler, Sharon always happily heads home to her garden on the Tennessee River. Sharon and her husband, Joe, became members of the Garden Conservancy Society of Fellows in 2018 and she was elected to the board of directors of the Garden Conservancy in June 2020. Sharon and Joe also have a home and garden in Cashiers, NC, which was included on the 2018 Society of Fellows garden-study tour of Highlands, Cashiers, and Lake Toxaway, NC.


To view short bios, please click on each name below.

Chair Emeritus

Benjamin F. Lenhardt, Jr.
Charleston, SC

Directors

To view a short bio of each board member, please click on the name below.

Mary-Randolph Ballinger
St. Louis, MO

Shelley Belling
Newport Beach, CA

Allison K. Bourke
Greenwich, Connecticut

Barbara Whitney Carr
Hobe Sound, FL

J. Barclay Collins II
Sharon, CT

Elizabeth Everdell
San Francisco, CA

Lionel Goldfrank III
Sharon, CT

Susan Zises Green
New York, NY

Suzanne Kayne
Santa Monica, CA

Frederick A. Landman
Greenwich, CT

Elizabeth Locke
Millwood, Va

Joseph Marek
Santa Monica, CA

Jean-Paul Montupet
St. Louis, MO

Stephen Orr
New York, NY

Suzanne Rheinstein
Los Angeles, CA

Katie Ridder
New York, NY

Ann Copeland Rose
Wilmington, DE

Jorge A. Sánchez
Palm Beach, FL

Howard G. Seitz
New York, NY

Christopher Spitzmiller
New York, NY

Patricia A. Steffan
New York, NY

Dana Scott Westring
Marshall, VA

Directors Emeriti

Linda Allard
Washington, CT

Douglas H. Banker
Garrison, NY

Josephine B. Bush
Hamden, CT

F. Colin Cabot
Loudon, NH
Board resolution in honor of Colin Cabot, December 10, 2020

Edward N. Dane
Center Harbor, NH

Page Dickey
Falls Village, CT
Board resolution in honor of Page Dickey, December 8, 2021

Dorothy H. Gardner
Chicago, IL
Board resolution in honor of Dorothy Gardner, September 12, 2018

Thomas B. Hunter III
Lake Forest, IL

Posy Krehbiel
Lake Forest, IL

Dr. Richard W. Lighty
West Chester, PA
Board resolution in honor of Dick Lighty, March 27, 2014

Susan Lowry
New York, NY
Board resolution in honor of Susan Lowry, December 10, 2020

Joseph F. McCann
New York, NY

Evelyn M. McGee
Sullivan's Island, SC
Board resolution in honor of Patti McGee, June 11, 2015

Chapin Nolen 
Santa Barbara, CA
Board resolution in honor of Chapin Nolen, September 17, 2015

Barbara Paul Robinson
New York, NY

Deborah Royce
Riverside, CT
Board resolution in honor of Deborah Royce, September 12, 2018

Susan Stone
Glencoe, IL
Board resolution in honor of Susan Stone, September 17, 2015

Nancy Thomas
Houston, TX

Rodman Ward, Jr.
Wilmington, DE
Board resolution in honor of Rod Ward, September 12, 2018

Louise Wrinkle
Birmingham, AL