Nancy Costopulos, President & CEO of Old Westbury Gardens

The Island Now

Nancy Costopulos is President & CEO of Old Westbury Gardens, one of the few remaining historic Long Island estates open to the public and one of the best-preserved of its kind in America.

Old Westbury Gardens is a private nonprofit founded in 1959; a treasured landmark that, with vision and careful stewardship, has survived to become an inspiring and authentic link to the past and a welcoming, magical place where visitors enjoy beautiful historic gardens and stunning architecture.

Nancy joined Old Westbury Gardens in 2015 and over the last seven years, she has successfully led her talented team and moved the organization forward through the development of a long-range strategic plan which lays out a vision for the future.

That plan is designed to preserve the Gardens’ historic assets, transform the visitor experience, and ensure Old Westbury Gardens will remain relevant to successive generations. In her time at the Gardens, the largest and most significant preservation project in the history of the organization was completed along with an ambitious and successful capital campaign.

New virtual programs were created to address the temporary closure of the Gardens education programs. The annual fund hit its highest mark ever, new tour programs have been created to enhance interpretation of the site, and large exhibitions were launched raising awareness and increasing membership and visitorship.

Nancy began her professional career in the corporate sector with Beatrice Foods/KKR in Seattle and Toronto and then moved to Los Angeles where she held her first nonprofit job with the Los Angeles Zoo Association where she served for six years.

Relocating with her husband and two children to Chicago, she accepted a position at the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the world’s leading public gardens and horticultural institutions, in fundraising, membership and public programs.

She then moved to the Chicago-based American Marketing Association, the largest professional society for marketing professionals and academics in the world, where she became the Chief Marketing Officer and served for 17 years.

Nancy also serves as Vice-Chair of the Board of Discover Long Island, is an avid road cyclist and beekeeper, as well as an enthusiastic cook and cooking instructor with a certificate in Culinary Arts from Kendall College in Chicago.

Like so many organizations in the early days of the pandemic, Old Westbury Gardens, which had welcomed visitors from Long Island and beyond for over 50 years, had to close its gates to the public.

Many of the staff transitioned to a work from home model and began to develop online programs and activities that would continue to engage the communities it served.

Nancy is leading Old Westbury Gardens to embrace the change created by the turmoil of the last two years by remaining agile, reducing risk, and generating a sense of excitement as plans evolve to recover and rebuild profits.

“Like so many astute leaders in the public and private sectors, we’ve all learned that so much of what has changed will remain, and we must acknowledge, create, and manage new business models. At Old Westbury Gardens we are working hard to understand and meet the new expectations of our visitors, and engage with the new customers we welcomed to our beautiful outdoor site during the pandemic. We are thinking differently, while at the same time, we keep doing what great brands and great businesses do—strengthening our commitment to our mission, our customers, and our values, and navigate through it all with empathy and a renewed sense of collaboration.”

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