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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Selby Gardens Receives $1-Million Gift for Master Plan


Richard Matson

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens announced yesterday at the annual Chairman’s Circle Dinner that philanthropist Richard Matson has made a $1-million pledge bequest to support the Master Plan for our Downtown Sarasota campus.

Matson and his wife, Cornelia, are already leadership donors to the project and were part of an initiator group of supporters who seeded a Capping Challenge with a dollar-for-dollar match to reach the fundraising goal for Phase One. Inspired by the continued progress of construction on the project’s first phase, which will be complete in less than 10 months, Matson chose to make an additional gift through his estate plan that is being recognized now toward Phase One.

“The Master Plan just floored me,” Matson said, recalling when Selby Gardens President & CEO Jennifer Rominiecki first presented an overview of the project to him. “It really opened my eyes to the potential of Selby Gardens—the research, the library, the location. It was just perfect.”

Richard and Cornelia Matson’s support for Selby Gardens goes back several decades, to even before they moved to Sarasota full-time in 1983. The couple started visiting the area after Richard’s mother and aunt moved to the city, and they first became involved with the Gardens during those visits. Cornelia Matson, a Selby Gardens trustee and co-chair of the campaign for the Master Plan, Innovating a Greener Future, joked that she “twisted his arm just a bit” when it came to her husband making an additional gift at this time. “I wanted him to enjoy more of the impact of his giving now,” she said.

In addition to Selby Gardens, the Matsons loyally support several arts and culture, human services, and educational organizations in the Sarasota area. Richard is also a long-time benefactor of the University School in Cleveland, where he has funded an endowed faculty chair and major gifts to several building projects.

Richard and Cornelia Matson inside the Tropical Conservatory at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus.

Construction of Phase One of the Selby Gardens Master Plan is scheduled to be completed in October, with grand-opening festivities planned for early November. When it opens, Phase One will include, among other improvements:

  • a new Welcome Center to properly accommodate and orient guests;
  • a cutting-edge Plant Research Center, with a state-of-the-art herbarium, laboratory, and library; and
  • the Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), which will house parking, a garden-to-plate restaurant, and a plant and gift shop, all topped by a nearly 50,000-square-foot solar array.

To date, Selby Gardens has raised more than $56 million for the Master Plan, with only about $600,000 left to raise for Phase One construction. The first phase accounts for more than half of the overall three-phase project.

For more information about the Master Plan and to make a gift that will be matched through the Capping Challenge for Phase One, go here.