Donald A. Rakow is a retired associate professor in the Section of Horticulture in Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science.
Dr. Rakow served as the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens (then Cornell Plantations) from 1996 – 2013, and as Plantations’ associate director from 1993 to 1995. He was a member of the Cornell faculty from1987 – 2023, and was actively involved in teaching, research, and undergraduate and graduate advising. Don created and co-directed the Cornell Graduate Program in Public Garden Leadership, which prepares graduates for the real-life challenges of sustaining public gardens and preserving natural areas in a resource-competitive world.
One aspect of Dr. Rakow’s’s research focuses on the impact of time in nature on human health and behavior, and he is co-author of Nature Rx: Improving College Student Mental Health (Cornell University Press, May, 2019). He founded the Nature Rx@Cornell program, and currently co-directs the nationwide Campus Nature Rx Network. He believes that efforts must be directed to make green sites equally accessible and usable to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or social status.
Dr. Rakow also writes about the history and management of public gardens and their contributions to society and human culture. He is the co-author of the textbooks, Public Garden Management (Wiley & Sons, January 2011), and Public Gardens and Livable Cities (Cornell University Press, October, 2020).
Dr. Rakow earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Albany in 1973, and a Master of Professional Studies in Ornamental Horticulture from Cornell in 1977. He joined the staff of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County that same year, and served as an extension agent until 1983. He received his Ph.D. in Urban Horticulture from Cornell in 1987.
He is very active with the American Public Gardens Association, having served on their board and chaired several committees, and is the recipient (2009) of their Meritorious Service Award and the Award of Merit (2015). Don is also an avid gardener.