GRAND RAPIDS TWP. — David Hooker is retiring from his role as CEO and president of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park after leading the organization for 16 years.
But while Hooker plans to spend more time with his family, he says he will continue working closely with the Meijer Gardens family. The continued success of Meijer Gardens and similar attractions is important because it enriches the lives of people who visit them, he noted.
“It’s a place of learning, and it can be a very spiritual thing for people to come out and find specific gardens or a private place of beauty to go,” Hooker told MiBiz. “When you come to Meijer Gardens or places like it and you experience all this beauty and remarkable art, I think it inspires people to do better things. That’s certainly a belief and hope of mine.”
Meijer Gardens became even more popular throughout the pandemic as people sought activities they could do outside, Hooker said. The growth in popularity of the attraction over the years also stems from the commitment of the Meijer family and donors, Hooker added.
“Our approach during the pandemic was always making sure we followed all the rules from medical professionals and the government, and at the same time we used to our advantage the fact that we have 158 acres of outdoors works of art and horticulture that people can enjoy,” Hooker said. “We tried to make ourselves as available as possible to let people enjoy all of that.”
In his tenure, Hooker has led the organization through a $115 million expansion project that added a new welcome center, learning center, amphitheater, picnic pavilion, rooftop sculpture garden and additional parking.
Hooker will continue in his role until a successor is secured. Meijer Gardens board Vice Chair Candace Matthews will head the committee seeking the next president and CEO.
“We have an opportunity to build on David’s remarkable accomplishments, which he so graciously led,” Matthews said in a statement. “We are committed to identifying a person committed to our mission, Fred and Lena’s vision, and our values of diversity and inclusion for all.”
Hooker calls himself “one of the luckiest people in the world” to have led Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
“I’ve learned so much about art and horticulture and the environment and the arts more broadly,” Hooker said. “Even before I came to Meijer Gardens, I thought of myself as a lifelong learner and the importance of that was really cemented here. There is so much to learn and we learn by doing fun things here.”
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