2009 Liff Spirit Award Honoree

Michael and Kitty Dukakis

Former Governor and First Lady, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Mike-Kitty-Dukakis Michael and Kitty Dukakis have long understood the importance Frederick Law Olmsted’s 100-year old Emerald Necklace park system has for democracy today. As private citizens and public servants, they have championed efforts to restore and maintain Boston’s original greenway in large ways, and small.

Mike and Kitty both grew up in Brookline. “We were both aware of the Emerald Necklace from an early age and knew that Olmsted had lived and worked in our town,” the former governor explains. “We also watched it sustain severe damage over the years.”

Under Dukakis’ leadership in the late eighties, $17 million was allocated for Olmsted parks across the state. This funding facilitated the creation of a master plan for the Emerald Necklace and spurred activists to work together for its 1,100 acres of parks, parkways and waterways.

As a legislator, Mike was also involved in expanding Olmsted Park by eliminating a carriage road adjacent to the Muddy River; working with John Sears in the sixties to improve the Franklin Park Zoo, and stopping a proposal to pave the Victory Gardens in the Back Bay Fens.

In addition, Kitty ran a public space program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University that promoted private-public parks partnerships and created models for organizations like the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

Three years ago, the Dukakises helped launch the Emerald Necklace Maintenance Collaborative which trains work crews from the State Department of Correction pre-release center in landscape maintenance. These crews now work in the parks, and several have graduated to paid employment in horticulture.

As partners and stewards, Mike and Kitty are an outstanding green team. So don’t be surprised if you see the governor stoop to pick up a bit of litter no one else has spotted on his way to today’s Party in the Park.

Past Recipients

Mark Volpe
Managing Director, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Founder, Central Park Conservancy

Thomas M. and Angela Menino
Mayor and First Lady, City of Boston

Malcolm Rogers
Ann and Graham Gund Director,
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Valerie Burns
President, Boston Natural Areas Network

Charles Ansbacher
Conductor and Founder,
Boston Landmark Orchestra

Michael and Kitty Dukakis
Former Governor and First Lady,
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Joan and Ted Cutler

Agnes “Diddy” Cullinane
Founder, Black and White Boston

Henry Lee
Founder, Friends of the Public Garden

Eugenie Beal
Founding Chair, Boston Conservation Commission
Founding Member, Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Norman Leventhal
Founder, The Beacon Companies