Longtime Manager of Reynolda Gardens to Retire after 37 Years at Wake Forest University
Preston Stockton will retire from Wake Forest University on Dec. 31, after 37 years as manager of Reynolda Gardens, an important campus and community greenspace that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
During her time as manager, Stockton oversaw the maintenance and preservation of 129 acres within the Reynolda Historic District, located adjacent to the university’s Reynolda Campus. The acreage includes four acres of formal gardens, five greenhouses and a conservatory, woodlands, walking trails and the Lake Katharine wetlands. Under her leadership, the Gardens completed a $1.4 million award-winning restoration of the gardens and greenhouses in 1998 that returned the formal gardens to their original 1917 plantings. Stockton also managed the Gardens’ adult education and children programs, which include summer camps, workshops and classes.
“It has been an honor to work with such a dedicated colleague who cares so deeply for this historic landscape,” said Allison Perkins, Reynolda House executive director and Wake Forest associate provost for Reynolda House and Reynolda Gardens. “Preston has accumulated countless friends for the Gardens, and throughout the years she has inspired thousands of budding young naturalists and mature master gardeners alike.”
In 2009, Reynolda Gardens partnered with Reynolda House and Wake Forest University to conduct a cultural landscape report of the Reynolda Historic District. The report documented the historic landscape and made recommendations for its preservation and future use. In 2015, Stockton served as a trusted advisor as Reynolda House embarked on its own landscape restoration project on the grounds immediately surrounding the house.
Perkins says it is a special tribute to Stockton’s leadership and management that Reynolda has now become one of the most distinctive quadrants of the Wake Forest campus. Faculty and students at Wake Forest regularly use the meadow, woodlands and wetlands for research and study, and the grounds are populated year-round by walkers and joggers who enjoy its solace and beauty.
Stockton was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. After earning her bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she received an associate of applied science degree in landscape gardening from Sandhills Community College. Prior to being named manager of Reynolda Gardens she completed an internship as a gardener at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and was head horticulturist at Stratford Hall Plantation, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, in Stratford, Va. She has served two terms on the Community Appearance Commission of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and on the advisory board of the Horticulture Program at Forsyth Technical College.
A search committee for a new director of Reynolda Gardens will be formed in January. In the interim, Perkins has named John Kiger operations manager for Reynolda Gardens. Kiger was formerly assistant manager.
Reynolda House Museum of American Art and Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are recognized as rare gems among the nation’s cultural institutions. The museum presents an exceptional collection of art by America’s most noted artists in an incomparable setting: the 1917 country home of Katharine and Richard Joshua (R. J.) Reynolds surrounded by acres of gardens and greenspace. Spanning 250 years of painting, prints, sculpture, photography and video art, the collection has been guided with the prescient and unerring eye of Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds. Highlights include important works by Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Chuck Close, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Martin Johnson Heade, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, Gilbert Stuart and Grant Wood. In addition to its collection of fine art, Reynolda House holds decorative arts and estate archive collections and mounts exhibitions from all periods in the 2005 Charles and Mary Babcock Wing. Established in 1967 and now affiliated with Wake Forest University, the museum is marking two anniversaries in 2017—the 50th of its founding and the 100th of the completion of its estate—with major exhibitions and events. The complete Reynolda experience includes Reynolda Gardens, composed of formal gardens, walking trails and wetlands, and Reynolda Village, now an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants in many of the estate’s original buildings. For more information, please visit reynoldahouse.org.