As the summer draws to its official close on Labor Day, it will also mark the retirement of one of Morris Arboretum’s long-standing staff members, Bob Gutowski, who has been at the Arboretum for the past 36 years. Reflecting on his time at the Morris Arboretum, Bob Gutowski will tell you, “Nobody does anything by themselves at the Morris Arboretum.” And that is one of the things he has found most rewarding during his long tenure—the opportunity to have worked with so many people to bring countless projects to fruition.

Bob Gutowski began his career at the Morris Arboretum in 1979 as a CETA employee (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act), a federally funded project to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service. As a CETA gardener trainee, Bob worked throughout the Arboretum and then stayed on to help manage the Rose Garden and greenhouses. He then worked in grounds maintenance on the University of Pennsylvania campus and enrolled in night classes at Wharton as one of the CETA benefits. These experiences introduced Bob to careers in public gardens and inspired him finish his college degree in horticulture, graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1983. Bob was then accepted into the Longwood Graduate Program where he reconnected with Bill Klein, then Director of the Morris Arboretum, who offered him a position.

Bob returned to manage grant-funded projects associated with the Morris Arboretum’s Centennial (celebrating the 100th anniversary of John and Lydia Morris purchasing the property in 1887). The Centennial was comprised of exhibits on-site at the Arboretum, a national garden history symposium, and the centerpiece exhibit at the 1987 Philadelphia Flower Show as well as at the Chelsea Flower Show in London (partnering with the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew). The exhibit, which featured a scale model of the Arboretum’s Fernery, won a gold medal at Chelsea.

Bob continued at the Arboretum through interpretation and education grants, and by consulting to generate earned income. He led the Arboretum’s Urban Forestry program since 1991. Through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service he directed the Mid-Atlantic Center for Urban Forestry from 1995-2000, winning state and national awards.  Bob was appointed the Arboretum’s Director of Public Programs in 1996 eventually adding education, visitor services, events, and a growing rental program to urban forestry and consulting programs.  The School of Arboriculture and the Urban Forestry Consulting program are enduring accomplishments grounded in our Arboretum mission.

It’s hard to name a project at the Arboretum with which Bob hasn’t been involved in some way, but he likes to think that he has been a champion for projects that were often deemed a “third priority” and/or needed a steward to get them moving forward. When asked if he ever said “no” to a challenging project, he responded, “When someone asks you to do something, say yes. If they ask you to do it, they have faith that you can.” He was instrumental, with then Director of Facilities Bob Anderson and many volunteers, in restoring Springfield Mills at Bloomfield Farm. The mill is again operational and serves as a valuable resource for education and a model of historic preservation.

Bob also championed the wetland restoration and Paper Mill Run riparian restoration, securing funding and coordinating planning with federal, state, and local stakeholders. This area now serves as a demonstration of best storm water management practices and habitat conservation. “Great birding,” says Bob.

Bob cites his involvement with the Out on a Limb exhibit as one of the most exciting collaborations he has worked on in his career. Bob was instrumental in developing the interpretation for the exhibit, which has won national awards and recognition, and garnered praise from the museum community, showcasing that the Morris Arboretum is more than just a garden.

“Bob’s professional growth paralleled the growth of Morris Arboretum as an institution. Bob started at the Arboretum without a horticulture background and grew to assume a number of departmental director roles, even serving as interim Executive Director last year. His breadth of knowledge made him a valuable leader at the Morris Arboretum, and his passion for plants, people, and place is evident in all that does.” – Paul W. Meyer, Retired F. Otto Haas Director

Bob has always been passionate about youth education and giving underserved youth the opportunity to experience and connect with nature. One of his proudest achievements is his involvement with the establishment of an endowment for youth education. This endowment helps remove financial barriers for students who otherwise could not afford to visit the Arboretum. It is Bob’s desire that funding the Youth Education Endowment will be his legacy gift through his participation in the Lydia Morris Legacy Society. “The Lydia Morris Legacy Society is a wonderful mechanism for people of modest means to make an impactful contribution to the Arboretum in a way that works for them financially,” Bob says. Thanks to these gifts and to his immeasurable contributions over almost four decades, it is assured that Bob has left an indelible mark at the Morris Arboretum.

Morris Arboretum is one of more than 30 Philadelphia gardens in America’s Garden Capital. This 92-acre horticultural display garden features a spectacular collection of mature trees in a beautiful and colorful landscape.  The Morris Arboretum offers educational programs for many audiences ranging from youth to professional, and is a leader in botanical and horticultural research.  The official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Morris Arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and accredited by the American Association of Museums.  For more information, visit: