Category Logo

Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum selects Sharon Moore as executive director

September 1, 2023

Sharon Moore, an experienced executive and fundraising professional who has helped usher positive change and exponential growth for Tennessee nonprofits for 25 years, will serve as executive director of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.

Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum (KBGA) is a 47-acre public garden located in East Knoxville, just two miles from the center of the city. The grounds are free and open to the public 365 days a year. The nonprofit maintains the property and is funded by the generosity of donors, members and guests.

“The history of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum spans more than 200 years of family, flowers and friends,” said Matt Keaney, president of KBGA board of directors and vice president and senior relationship manager of FirstBank. “As we look to extend that legacy well into the future, we were impressed not only with Sharon’s nonprofit experience, but also with her vision and love for the garden. Her fundraising and development success speaks for itself, and she has a passion for KBGA that excites and inspires us.”

Sharon Moore Executive Director

Executive Director Jim Richards recently retired after eight years at the helm, and Moore officially steps into the role on Sept. 25.

“We are indebted to Jim,” Keaney said. “KBGA benefited from his leadership, expertise in horticulture, civic background and love for the outdoors. During Jim’s eight-year tenure, he was instrumental in broadening our community reach; adding several permanent gardens to the grounds, including the iconic Secret Garden – financially the largest project completed on the property to date; initiating an internship program with the University of Tennessee School of Landscape Architecture; and making the KBGA a regional special event destination with the addition of the beautiful Dogwood Center. Jim’s legacy will long be remembered. Thank you, Jim.”

Moore was selected to succeed Richards after a consultant and KGBA committee completed a comprehensive nationwide search for the new director.

“It is a great honor to have been chosen to steward Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum through its next phase of development and success,” Moore said. “KBGA is a remarkable community treasure, and I look forward to working hand in hand with the passionate board of directors and dedicated staff to ensure the garden’s impact on the community continues to grow and to keep it protected and thriving for future generations.”

Since 2021, Moore has served as director of advancement at East Tennessee Foundation. She led the planned giving program and served as a member of the executive leadership team, directly supervising the advancement team and leading strategic direction and priorities.

Prior to that role, Moore spent 12 years at Zoo Knoxville, first as director of development and then chief development officer. As campaign director for “Dream Wilder,” she led all phases of a $30 million capital campaign, ultimately raising more than $37 million. She also was responsible for 175 percent growth in contributed annual operating revenue over six years inclusive of conceiving and launching the Circle of Friends donor society and overseeing Zoofari, a gala event exceeding $1 million raised annually.

“This position fulfills a personal and professional dream.” Moore said. “Influenced by my parents, grandparents and aunt, gardening is my beloved primary hobby. And as an avid traveler, botanical gardens, arboretums and conservatories are at the top of my ‘must-see’ list wherever I go. My interest is paired with significant experience in campus master planning and execution, facilities management and promoting a conservation organization, as well as a commitment to East Knoxville.”

Moore previously served as chief development and marketing officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, increasing revenue by 40 percent over a three-year period. Starting in 1993, Moore worked as assistant director of Avalon Center in Crossville, Tennessee; she was named executive director in 1996 and held that leadership role for 11 years while establishing innovative programs to provide emergency shelter and support services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Moore, a graduate of the Leadership Knoxville Class of 2021, is active in the community, currently serving on the East Tennessee Community Design Center board of directors, Wesley House Community Center board of directors and the Leadership Knoxville Mayors’ Luncheon committee.

Moore earned a Bachelor of Science in speech communications from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t tending to her backyard garden, she is spending time with family and friends, loving two rescue dogs and a cat, enjoying the beauty of East Tennessee and attempting amateur artistic pursuits such as cold wax oil painting.

For more information about the KBGA, including details on visiting the grounds or making a donation, visit

About Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum

The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum (KBGA) is located on 47 acres of former Howell Nurseries, featuring walking trails, display gardens, unique and historic horticulture and over two miles of distinctive stone walls and timeless buildings, just five minutes from downtown. KBGA is a privately owned and operated Garden supported through donations and membership. Thanks to members and local supporters, these beautiful gardens are available to the public for free. For more information, visit