Newark, OH – February 2024 – After 24 years of dedicated leadership, Luke Messinger has announced he will step down as executive director of the Dawes Arboretum to become CEO of another central Ohio non-profit, RAPID 5. A search committee has been established to determine his replacement.
Messinger has served as executive director of the arboretum since 2000. The organization extends its deepest gratitude for his leadership, commitment, and outstanding contributions to the arboretum’s mission of enriching lives through the conservation of trees, nature and history.

“Luke has been instrumental in growing the Dawes Arboretum into a nationally recognized center for botanical science, plant conservation, habitat restoration, and education,” said Henry Hauser, Dawes Arboretum Board Chair. “His passion for our mission, our staff, our community, and to the Dawes family history has been unwavering and has led us to achieve many accomplishments over the past two decades. We truly appreciate his efforts, and as a Board, we will be working hard to ensure a smooth transition in leadership.”

Under Messinger’s leadership, the Dawes Arboretum acquired an additional 800 acres (bringing the grounds to a total to nearly 2,000 acres), expanded its nationally recognized plant research program, and received full arboretum accreditation by Arbnet, claiming a title shared by only 30 arboreta worldwide. Furthermore, Messinger substantially grew the arboretum’s education outreach, added new gardens, and natural areas and
trails that are visited by more than 100,000 people annually.

“The Dawes Arboretum is in a strong position thanks to Luke’s leadership. He has grown our membership from 1,400 households to nearly 5,500; our staff from 30 full-time employees to more than 70; and under his leadership, Dawes was selected as a Native Plant Learning Center,” said Hauser. “We are excited about our future and are in a strong place to recruit our next leader.”

Messinger will officially leave his position at the end of March and start at RAPID 5 in early May. The Dawes Board has named Katie Carter, current COO, as acting CEO.


About The Dawes Arboretum
Founded in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes, The Dawes Arboretum is a living museum celebrating the history and beauty of trees and nature. Located in Newark, Ohio (30 miles east of Columbus), The Dawes Arboretum offers paths, trails and boardwalks to explore along with historical and art exhibitions and educational programming. The Dawes Arboretum is recognized by the National Registry of Historic Places and is open daily. Admission is free to members and $10/adults, $5/children ages 5-15 and free/children under 5 years of age. Additional information on visiting, programming, history and membership is available at

Follow Dawes Arboretum on Facebook, @thedawesarboretum and Instagram, @dawesarboretum.