A Green Gardener, Leader and Visionary

Sophia Siskel grew into her dream job as president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which lets her combine her passion for gardening with her commitment to serving Chicago’s cultural institutions.

Plus, she can bike to work in 13 minutes. Siskel heads one of the leading garden and research institutions in the world, and she does it with humor and a green thumb.

Siskel is a homegrown leader. She has an art degree from the University of Chicago and an M.B.A. from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. She worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Field Museum before joining the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG).

“You’d be hard pressed to find a better garden in the world,” Siskel says—not only for beauty, but also for its role in the horticultural world. “We can’t take it for granted. What’s here is special.”

CBG’s mission is to serve as a resource both locally and internationally. Locally, gardeners rely on CBG’s advice, education and inspiration. Further afield, Chicago benefits from the Green Youth Farm and Windy City Harvest, examples of how CGB gives back while teaching people about sustainability.

And for the entire planet, CBG is working to save plants. As a leading research and conservation institution, CBG is training the next generation of plant scientists, and preserving bio-diversity by collecting endangered plant species.

“Keep Growing,” the 10-year strategic plan Siskel and her board of directors recently unveiled, ensures that the CBG will continue to grow—not physically, but in impact. “We’re expanding the reach,” she says.

CBG, like its famous Rose Garden, gets better, more mature and lovelier each year. There’s always a new species to ooh and ahh over, but also the old favorites to revisit, each with its own intoxicating fragrance and beauty.