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Trustees President and CEO Barbara J. Erickson Passes Away

Leaves Legacy of Growth, Success

On Friday, January 15, we learned that Barbara J. Erickson, President and CEO of The Trusteespassed away from cancer. She passed away surrounded by her family at home. We will post news about where to send condolences once we have that information. Jocelyn Forbush was named Acting President and CEO during Barbara’s medical leave and will continue in this post while the Board determines the next steps.   

Please see below a letter to members of governance from Peter Coffin, Chair of the Board.  

Barbara Erickson and Peter Coffin

Dear Friend, 

I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors and the Executives of The Trustees to inform you of the passing of Barbara Erickson, President and CEO, on the afternoon of January 15, 2021. After a valiant struggle with cancer, Barbara passed peacefully surrounded by family at her home.  

Jocelyn Forbush, Executive Vice President, has been serving as Acting President and CEO while Barbara has been on medical leave. She will continue in that post while the Board of Directors determines the next steps. She and the full Executive Team, as well as the Board of Directors are committed to maintaining a strong foundation of stability and continuity for the organization.  

Barbara has served as President and CEO since 2012 and under her leadership, the organization achieved many important milestones. Her tenure will be defined by growth, mission-focus, new leadership, expanded audiences, and renewed philanthropy. In her first five years, she led the organization through a strategic plan, The Path Forward, achieving all parts of the five-year strategy and exceeding most of the key goals. Barbara led the organization through the $26.2 million Cultural Resources Campaign which helped to revitalize many of the organization’s cultural sites. The operating budget for the organization has nearly doubled. The membership base has grown from 42,000 households to 75,000 and 100% in revenue. Barbara led several key integrations and partnerships including the Boston Public Market Kitchen, The FARM Institute, Fruitlands Museum, and deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Additionally, several new acquisitions were opened under her tenure including Allen Haskell Public Gardens, Governor Oliver Ames Estate, and more recently Gerry Island, Jewell Hill, and Mary Cummings Park. Initiatives such as Art and the Landscape were conceived, funded, and launched under her leadership. She hired and recruited key staff in development, finance, marketing, and recently technology, community, and volunteerism building out the leadership of the organization. 

In 2016, Barbara led the development of the current Strategic Plan, Momentum, which outlines ambitions for five areas of work and 43 metric goals. These include the development of a waterfront park in Boston, coastal work which addressed climate impacts, expanded public gardens, a flagship farm property, and attraction of audiences through an initiative to get the next generation outdoors. In the first three years, the plan is on track to achieve new heights for the organization. 

Ambition, tenacity, and audacious thinking defined Barbara’s presidency. She will be remembered for her strong vision and aspirations for the organization. Personally, she championed leadership by women in the workplace and especially mothers. She also avidly loved the outdoors and travel. She contemplated the “forever” part of our work deeply and never stopped thinking about how to make the organization better, more sustainable, and secure for a far-off future that she would not see. Indeed, that future has arrived too quickly and now we live with her legacy, and long for her vision. We will not forget our audacious leader Barbara Erickson. Thank you, Barbara for all that you gave to The Trustees and to each of us. 

Best regards, 

Peter Coffin
Chair, Board of Directors 

Barbara Erickson’s Obituary