Fred Hoyt, UW Botanic Gardens Director and Orin and Althea Soest Chair for Urban Horticulture, has announced he will retire at the end of January, 2021. His career at the Botanic Gardens spans the past 38 years, during which he has played an important role in many aspects of the stewardship and growth of our collections and programs. He has fostered strong relationships with colleagues and community members and will be remembered for a lasting impact on the Gardens.
Fred started at the Washington Park Arboretum in August of 1982 as a Gardener Lead, after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Idaho in Plant Science, specializing in Landscape Horticulture. In April 1984, Fred moved from the Arboretum to serve at the then new Center for Urban Horticulture, which was in the final stages of being built. By 1985 he was involved in the planning and development of the new plant growing facilities at the Center, and in 1990 he took on management of the new greenhouses and nursery, while also occasionally teaching for the Continuing Education program. By 1999, Fred’s position had evolved in complexity; he was working more closely with donors and constituents and serving on various Center and College committees, and he was promoted into a management position including supervision of the horticulture staff at the Center.
Following the arson fire in 2001, the Center and Arboretum became more integrated through a reorganization, and Fred took on the supervision of the horticultural staff as well as the rental facilities staff at both sites. In 2005 the new name of UW Botanic Gardens was adopted. By the late 2000s Fred was taking on additional curatorial responsibilities and also became the lead on the new SR-520 bridge mitigation project. In 2011, Fred was promoted to Associate Director of UW Botanic Gardens. He was by this time working even more closely with donors, collaborators, other UW departments as well as government offices.
With his long tenure and deep experience with the organization, Fred was able to step in as Interim Director when Dr. Sarah Reichard unexpectedly passed away in 2016. He was named Director in April of 2019.
Director Hoyt is especially proud of his longevity with the organization. He has felt rewarded by the opportunities he had to advance in his career while staying at the Botanic Gardens, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with such a talented and professional staff. In a letter announcing his retirement to UW colleagues and students, Fred wrote, “I feel very lucky to have spent a large part of my life working at a botanic garden and a university. The people I have worked alongside during this time have been fantastic and supportive. It is you, the staff and students of the Botanic Gardens that have made these last years as Director so enjoyable. You are a very dedicated, hardworking, and caring group. I could not have asked for a better place to have dedicated my professional life.” He notes that he has found it particularly rewarding to work on projects that will extend well beyond his own career.
Former Directors and mentors have also been very important to Fred in his career. He is honored to have had the privilege to work under the leadership of Drs. Harold Tukey, John Wott, Tom Hinckley and Sarah Reichard. He learned much from them and appreciates that they provided him with opportunities to grow. He also values the rapport he built with Emeritus Dean and Professor Bruce Bare, of the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.
More recently, Fred has really enjoyed the close working relationships he has built with Stephanie Harrington, Associate Dean of Administration in the College of the Environment, and Dan Brown, Director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. Fred notes that, in addition to those named, there are many other colleagues who have influenced his work and contributed to a rewarding career at the Botanic Gardens.
One relationship that has been especially meaningful to Fred has been his friendship with Warren King George, Historian for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. The two have collaborated for the past several years, building a strong friendship based on shared understanding and respect.
Fred’s career has offered him the opportunity to connect with a number of individuals and partner organizations who support the Botanic Gardens through their time and gifts. He really enjoys sharing the work of UW Botanic Gardens with donors – what we do and how it benefits society – and he especially wants to acknowledge the support of the Arboretum Foundation, Seattle Garden Club, Northwest Horticultural Society, Miller Charitable Foundation, and Friends of Yesler Swamp. He states, “There is great support from the foundations and societies with which we are associated and our relationship with them is at an all-time high, and due to this support there is a bright future for the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum.”
Fred’s contributions to the community have been recognized in a number of ways throughout his career. In recent years, he was awarded two honors of which he is especially proud.
In 2018, Fred received the Seattle Garden Club’s Commendation for Non-Members. The award recognizes a community member for dedicated service reflective of the purpose of the Seattle Garden Club, which is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, to aid in the protection of the quality of the environment, to assist in the civic beautification and to aid and carry on charitable, scientific and educational activities in fields including Horticulture, Conservation, and Civic Achievement.
Catherine Allan, of the Seattle Garden Club, noted, “We have had a respectful, symbiotic relationship with Center for Urban Horticulture/UW Botanic Gardens during our long history there. Fred enhanced this liaison during his tenure with the UWBG, but especially after Dr. Sarah Reichard’s death in 2016. He stepped into the position of Interim Director…, never lessening his ties with the SGC, even while his responsibilities increased. We greatly appreciated his genuine friendship and wish him all the best in his retirement.”
In spring of 2019, Hoyt was honored with the UW College of the Environment’s award for Outstanding Community Impact. This award recognizes stakeholder engagement that stimulates, inspires, and drives interactive uses of environmental science and information to impact the broader community. This includes, but is not limited to working with communities to change management of natural resources, and bringing diverse groups of people together to address a common issue.
At the Spring Celebration recognizing the year’s award winners, Dean Lisa Graumlich stated, “Fred’s passionate dedication to the UW’s public gardens has helped maintain their value as essential teaching tools used and deeply loved by the community. The education programs Fred has championed have given thousands of children and adults the opportunity to be immersed in the natural world right in their own city.
“Perhaps even more impactful, however, have been the many ways Fred has engaged with diverse cultural groups by fostering their connections to the Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture. His passionate engagement with Native American peoples who hold a sacred relationship with the land that is occupied by the Arboretum and his outreach to immigrant communities with cultural ties to our collections were particularly inspiring to many of those who nominated Fred for this award.
“He’s been a leader and advocate for the growth of the UW Farm and helped propel innovative and collaborative practices that provide people with traditional food sources and more closely connect them to the earth. Fred was a key player in the creation and execution of the Arboretum Loop Trail, which has expanded awareness and usage of the Arboretum by an estimated 40% since it opened two years ago.
“In the words of one nominator, ‘Fred has worn many hats at the UWBG over the years, but his commitment to the idea of using these gardens as a means of fostering connections between people might represent his strongest legacy.’”
In retirement, Fred looks forward to travel and adventure with his wife of 37 years, Michelle Barry, who has just retired herself, as well as his two sons and their families, and spending more time with his good friends when we are able to safely resume personal gatherings. He is already making plans for international travel and pursuing his decades-long hobby of sailing. And he and Michelle have both recently picked up a new hobby – playing the ukulele!
Fred sees a bright future for UW Botanic Gardens, and encourages the staff to keep an open mind and take advantage of opportunities to make our organization stronger, more efficient, and more effective in stewarding our collections and serving our community. He feels inspired and very positive about the possibilities to come.
Please join us in showing our appreciation for Fred’s service and congratulating him on his retirement. We hope for an opportunity to celebrate in person later this year.
If you would like to support the work of UW Botanic Gardens or make a gift in honor of Fred’s service, you can find information about those opportunities on the UW Botanic Gardens “Make a Gift” webpage.