AUSTIN, Texas – Lee Clippard has been selected to serve as executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the official botanic garden and arboretum of Texas. Clippard has been interim director since May and previously worked for seven years in center leadership, serving as deputy director and the head of communications and guest experience.
Clippard has been an integral part of efforts that have increased Wildflower Center annual visits by more than 50%, increased revenue from donations and memberships, and expanded awareness of native plants. He recently established a new Department of Science and Conservation.
“In connecting Texans and visitors from around the world to the Wildflower Center’s mission inspiring the conservation of native plants, Lee Clippard brings vital skills and a track record of success to the executive director role,” said David Vanden Bout, dean of UT’s College of Natural Sciences. “His compelling vision for making the Wildflower Center a gateway for discovery for more people and for forging new ties with scientists and other researchers makes him the ideal leader in an exciting time for a beloved Austin destination.”
Founded in 1982, the Wildflower Center is named for Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady and a passionate advocate for beautification, plants and the environment. With her support, the Wildflower Center and its work to advance sustainability came under the umbrella of Johnson’s alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, in 2006.
Clippard received a bachelor’s degree in biology from UT Austin and a master’s degree in entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining the Wildflower Center, he was the senior director of communications for the university’s College of Natural Sciences from 2005 to 2014.
“As the university and state botanic garden, the Wildflower Center is an essential institution, and I am honored to have this opportunity to steward its future success,” said Clippard. “I look forward to expanding access to our community, growing our efforts to conserve native plants and create healthy landscapes, and building upon our 40 years of success.”
Today, the Wildflower Center hosts more than 200,000 visitors a year on its 248 acres, which include cultivated gardens, an arboretum, dedicated research areas and almost 1,000 species of Texas native plants. It is a hub for discovery, learning and public engagement about native plants and landscape restoration.
In September, Clippard worked with the College of Natural Sciences to designate the Wildflower Center an official UT biological field station. Prior to becoming interim director, he oversaw marketing and communications for the opening of the Wildflower Center’s Luci and Ian Family Garden, special events and exhibitions such as Luminations and Fortlandia, and the national launch of a sustainability ratings program led by the center, the Sustainable SITES Initiative. His team helped grow annual attendance at the center from 140,000 people to 215,000, and it publishes the award-winning Wildflower magazine.
Clippard succeeds Patrick Newman, who began a new post as CEO and president of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and Fort Worth Botanic Garden last spring.