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Descanso Gardens Executive Director David Brown announces retirement

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David Brown, who joined Descanso Gardens in 2005 and worked with trustees, donors and guild members to transform the site into an important historic and botanical Southern California landmark, announced Thursday his plans to retire as executive director.

His last day will be Aug. 31 of next year. Until that time, Brown will continue to oversee several high-profile projects set to launch this year, including “Enchanted: Forest of Light,” a nighttime holiday-themed event scheduled to begin in November.

“The decision came from a very deep place,” Brown said in an interview. “I actually came in thinking this would be a five or six year experience and it will have turned into 12.”

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Brown reflected on the long arc of his nonprofit career and how each role helped shape his time at Descanso, including his tenure as president and chief executive at the Art Center College of Design from 1985 to 1999, consultant work for the Wyoming Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and work with Napa’s Oxbow School, a single-semester arts school for high school juniors and seniors co-founded by Robert and Margrit Mondavi.

When a spring 2004 call from a Descanso board member with whom he’d served as a trustee on another board eventually turned into an invitation to assume leadership of the botanical garden, Brown was surprised.

“I thought, that’s a little out of left field, but very flattering,” he recalled. “If you’re willing to hire someone who doesn’t know the name of the plants, I’m willing to try and learn the names of the plants and contribute what I can along the way.”

That agreement would come to blossom into a relationship that would usher in a new era of growth and optimism for the botanical showplace.

The Valley Sun sat down with Brown for an in-depth interview that will appear in the Oct. 13 issue.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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