Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation. The Stark Cultural Venues which include Shangri La, the W.H. Stark House, Stark Museum of Art, Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, provide the Orange, Texas community and Southeast Texas region with outstanding resources for the study and enjoyment of the arts, history, culture, science and nature.
In 1937, inspired by the utopian novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Orange, Texas philanthropist H.J. Lutcher Stark began to carve out of his acreage along Adams Bayou his own vision of Hilton’s magical realm, Shangri-La. Lutcher Stark opened his extraordinary gardens to the public in 1946. Thousands of visitors made their way to Orange to explore Shangri La’s 252 acres including the famous azalea gardens and cypress and tupelo swamps. In 1958 a massive freak snow storm stretching from Texas up the east coast destroyed much of the Gardens and they remained closed for almost 50 years.
Now known as Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, the site was (re)opened to the public in March, 2008, presenting a unique combination of formal gardens and natural environment, including in addition to the restored Botanical Gardens, the Orientation Center, Exhibit Hall, Discovery Theater, Classroom Greenhouse, interactive Children’s Garden, Water Demonstration Garden, a Café and Garden Store. The ecosystem of Shangri La has been recognized for its uniqueness – an undeveloped cypress tupelo swamp in the middle of an urban area.
The Botanical Gardens restored to the grounds an historic color garden including 41 varieties of azaleas, one of the glories of the first Shangri La and decimated by the 1958 storm. The Gardens display 300 plant species within five artistic “rooms” and four sculpture gardens. Adjacent to the Gardens is a state-of-the-art bird blind where special cameras provide extraordinary up close views of nesting birds in Shangri La’s Ruby Lake, which is approximately 15 acres and home to more than 5,000 birds annually.
The Nature Discovery Center offers a comprehensive view of the natural southeast Texas landscape, which includes a mixed deciduous forest, a cypress tupelo swamp and Ruby Lake. The hands-on exhibit explains Shangri La’s wetland ecosystems. First along boardwalks and then onboard a boat, visitors are guided by a Bayou Guide and docents to explore the Gardens’ ecosystem.
An extraordinary commitment to educational programming is at the heart of Shangri La’s mission and engages thousands of children and adults every year. Shangri La’s educational distinction has been recognized by many awards, including the 2012 Texas Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Education.
One of the goals for the restored Shangri La was to achieve LEED certification, which it did in 2008, receiving the U.S Green Building Council’s Platinum certification for new construction. The American Institute of Architects selected Shangri La as one of the “Top Ten Green Projects in the World.”
Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center operates under the auspices of the Stark Foundation with an operating budget of $5,700,000. Capital expenditures are just over $1,200,000. Staff includes 28 full-time employees and 21 part-time. There are 190 active volunteers. The membership program has attracted over 700 families and individuals.
The Managing Director of Shangri La Botanical Gardens reports to the President of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation and works closely with the Foundation’s Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, Human Resources Manager, Marketing Manager and Chief Properties Officer.
The Managing Director leads the operation and oversees the administrative, educational and horticultural staff of the Gardens. Reporting to the Managing Director are Director of Horticulture, Environmental Education Coordinator, Volunteer/Tour Coordinator, Admissions, and Administrative Assistant.
Primary responsibilities include working closely with the Stark Foundation President to set the vision and multi-year strategies necessary for measureable and successful implementation of Shangri La’s mission. She/he will set annual goals and objectives to meet clearly articulated expectations; provide program and administrative management and direct staff in the implementation of these plans.
The new Managing Director’s immediate priorities will be learning the Foundation’s and Shangri La’s mission, culture, operations and natural resources. She/he will also gain an understanding of the Botanical Gardens’ finances, collections, educational and other programs and become familiar with the professional staff and volunteers. After which, she/he will provide to the President appropriate recommendations for organizational enhancements. The Managing Director will also take the time to develop collegial working relationships with the Managing Directors and staffs of the other Stark Cultural Venues, and with community and business leaders and public officials.
In the performance of these responsibilities, the Managing Director shall:
The successful candidate must be a strong leader with 10 years of progressively senior level experience, preferably gained with a botanical garden and/or nature/ environmental center or other related non-profit cultural or educational institution. A graduate degree in botanical, ecological or environmental science or a related discipline is required. In addition, the following experience and qualifications are sought:
Shangri La is seeking a dynamic, experienced, forward-looking Managing Director. The successful candidate will:
The town of Orange is the county seat of Orange County, located in the Gulf Coast region of Southeast Texas. Orange is about 35 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana and 110 miles from Houston. The town has a population of 18,000 and is a regional cultural center as the home of the highly regarded Stark Cultural Venues. Beaumont, with a population of 118,000, is 25 miles from Orange.
Orange is in the Sabine River basin which flows from the Gulf of Mexico. It is a plains area with a unique ecosystem and a rich 12,000 year history of human habitation beginning with the Clovis culture. The region is known as Texas’s “Golden Triangle” as a result of large-scale oil extraction beginning in the 20th century. Orange is home today to manufacturers like DuPont, Signal International, Firestone and ChevronPhillips. In addition to the petrochemical industry, the area economy includes steel, shipbuilding and paper production.
The city brand is “Small Town Charm, World Class Culture.” In addition to the Stark Cultural Venues, Orange County is home to the Heritage House, the Heritage History Museum, the historic First Presbyterian Church and the Blue Elbow Swamp. The town hosts art and music festivals; a major downtown revitalization plan spurred recovery from serious damage caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Lamar State College, part of the Texas State University system, is located in Orange. Lamar University, also part of the TSU system, is located in nearby Beaumont, Texas. Lamar Institute of Technology is also located in Beaumont.
Cost of living and housing costs in the area are below Texas average. The weather ranges from an average 39 degrees during the winter to a 90 degree average during July, with high precipitation especially during the summer.
Amtrak stops in nearby Beaumont. The closest airports are in Houston and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Air service to Dallas from Beaumont will begin February 2013.
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