2020 Liff Spirit Awardee

Kathy Abbott

President and CEO, Boston Harbor Now

Kathy Abbott

Kathy Abbott is a committed open space leader and visionary thinker. She began her career working on the Boston Harbor Islands as a park ranger and currently serves as Boston Harbor Now’s President and CEO. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from UMass Amherst and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard.

After completing her education, she worked in the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs under the Governor Dukakis and then Governor Weld administrations and later served as Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Outside of government, she has held executive roles at the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, The Trust for Public Land, The Trustees of the Reservation, School of Field Studies, and Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Kathy has a history of leading change through public and non-profit organizations including advancing statewide park planning, management and land conservation, educating students and impacting resource-based economies in primarily developing countries through applied environmental studies, creating a new national park through a first of its kind public-private partnership in Boston Harbor, creating and managing a statewide park system, increasing funding for public parks in Massachusetts, and growing the impact of the only year-round botanic garden in New England. She has never done this work alone and credits great teams and collaborations for her success.

Kathy’s life-long commitment to open space conservation, fostering of public-private partnerships and demonstrated influence to gain increased support for parks reflects the spirit and dedication of Justine Mee Liff. We are thrilled to honor Kathy Abbott with the 2020 Liff Spirit Award.

Liff Spirit Award

The Liff Spirit Award, named for Justine Mee Liff, Boston’s Commissioner of Parks and Recreation from 1996 to 2002, honors the vision, wisdom, humanity and joy that Justine brought to her work as a champion of the open, green spaces that are so vital to our daily life. It is presented annually at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Party in the Park to an individual or individuals whose leadership, commitment to cities, passion for public places, dedication the democratic ideals fostered in urban parks, and ability to inspire public servants and private citizens to join together in common cause best reflects Justine’s spirit and legacy.

Past Recipients

2019
Kathryn Ott Lovell
Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

2018
Kelsey Wirth
Founder, Mothers Out Front

2017
Whitney Hatch
Chairman, DCR Stewardship Council

2016
Ropes & Gray
Celebrating 150 Year Anniversary

2015
Mark Volpe
Managing Director, Boston Symphony Orchestra

2014
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Founder, Central Park Conservancy

2013
Thomas M. and Angela Menino
Mayor and First Lady, City of Boston

2012
Malcolm Rogers
Ann and Graham Gund Director,
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

2011
Valerie Burns
President, Boston Natural Areas Network

2010
Charles Ansbacher
Conductor and Founder,
Boston Landmark Orchestra

2009
Michael and Kitty Dukakis
Former Governor and First Lady,
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

2008
Joan and Ted Cutler
Philanthropists

2007
Agnes “Diddy” Cullinane
Founder, Black and White Boston

2006
Henry Lee
Founder, Friends of the Public Garden

2005
Eugenie Beal
Founding Chair, Boston Conservation Commission
Founding Member, Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Norman Leventhal
Founder, The Beacon Companies