Mary Brinegar has devoted her career to enriching the lives of Dallas residents and visitors. After earning a degree in elementary education from SMU in 1969, she worked in the non-profit sector at KERA-TV, the Science Place and the Dallas Opera. She became president and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum in 1996.
Since Brinegar assumed leadership, the Arboretum has made improvements of more than $100 million and achieved recognition as one of the world’s most beautiful gardens. MSNBC recommended a visit to the Dallas Arboretum as one of the “10 things you should do in America in the spring.” Trip Advisor has chosen it as Dallas’ number one entertainment activity for the past four years. The 2012 exhibit of glass works by Dale Chihuly attracted huge crowds and boosted membership to 38,000. Arboretum attendance now approaches one million people a year. The Arboretum has won the prestigious Program Excellence Award from the American Public Garden Association.
Reflecting her passion for education, Brinegar’s crowning achievement is the $62 million Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which opened in 2013. Educators from SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development participated in curriculum planning for these eight acres, where children’s scientific learning is enhanced through interactive exhibits. Recognizing its innovative education programs serving 4,000 adults and 100,000 children annually, the Arboretum received the 2013 Luminary Award presented by the Simmons School. Local honors for Brinegar’s professional and volunteer service include Theta of the Year, Junior League Sustainer of the Year, Fundraiser of the Year and “100 Women in 100 Years.”