Cornell Botanic Gardens is one of Cornell’s greatest treasures. The gardens, arboretum, and natural areas make it easy to embrace nature–whether I’m in the mood to learn about wildflowers, wander around Beebe Lake, hike one of the gorge trails, or just be inspired by 3,600 acres of spectacular beauty.”


After earning a Master of Arts at Stanford University, I worked as curator and director at two art museums in the San Francisco Bay Area. I relocated to New York City, and for six years ran the country’s first executive education program for directors of cultural institutions (museums, historic sites, zoos, and botanic gardens), working with faculty from Columbia Business School. These early experiences made me appreciate the challenges of not-for-profit management, the importance of understanding and building audiences, and the critical nature of both earned income and fundraising. In the corporate world, I held a series of marketing positions in which I promoted high-end consulting services to senior-level decision makers and headed up the marketing departments at two training and development companies. I subsequently ran my own marketing consulting firm for 10 years, after which I served as VP of marketing at MasterCard, where I developed a wide range of business-to-business marketing initiatives. I retired in 2012.

Although I can barely grow a tomato, I enjoy visiting gardens immensely. As the Cornell Botanic Gardens is the jewel of Cornell, my husband, Jim Irish ‘74, and I made a commitment to fund the Rain Garden, a water feature in the Peony and Perennial Garden to be built in front of the Nevin Welcome Center.