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August 20, 2018 Class of 2018

40 Under Forty: Grace Elton, 37

Photo | Erika Sidor Winners of the WBJ 2018 40 Under Forty award (from left): Grace Elton, Efua T. Dufu, Jennifer Leger and Ben Jones.


Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston

Lives: Worcester

Birthplace: Cincinnati

Colleges: University of Delaware, University of Florida

Elton took over at Tower Hill in April 2017 and didn't take long to update an institution through its parent organization, the Worcester County Horticultural Society, dates to 1842. Elton helped lead Tower Hill to its most successful fundraising year, raising more than $5 million, and its highest annual attendance at 140,000. Tower Hill had a record number of people – more than 9,000 – taught in its education programs last year, and her acquisition of 39 acres to the garden's footprint was the largest expansion at Tower Hill in more than two decades. Elton is among the youngest heads in the country of a large botanical garden, but the task doesn't feel foreign to someone whose parents met while working at Everglades National Park in Florida. Perhaps with help from a memory of walking among rows of orange trees growing up, Elton has taken to the industry, having led Temple University's Philadelphia Flower Show exhibits in 2009-2011, and served as the director of horticulture for the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va. Elton serves on Worcester Cultural Coalition's board and chairs its governance committee. 

From 40 Under Forty judge Milka Njoroge: “Grace is an innovative leader who is committed to the community, creating opportunities for people from all backgrounds to connect with and enjoy nature.”

What is the best advice you've ever gotten? My grandma Grace Rudig told me to travel as much as possible to see the world and learn about other cultures.

When they eventually build a statue of you, what will the inscription say? Grace Elton created beauty and inspired people to love plants, gardening and the natural world. 

Read about the entire 2018 Class of 40 Under Forty

Michael Alden - Ascentria Care Alliance

Che Anderson - City of Worcester

Victor M. Archila - VMA Electric Inc.

Allison Beckler, DO - YOU, Inc.

Sam Bitar - Webster Five

Mark A. Borenstein - Seder & Chandler LLP

Kate D. Campanale - Massachusetts House of Representatives

Derek Canton - paerpay

Ryan Canuel - Petricore, Inc.

Jennifer Caron - Body Therapeutics

Danielle J. Clark - Clark Career Coaching

Heidi Cooper - Cooper’s Hilltop Farm

Matthew M. Copeland, P.E. - Copeland Building Envelope Consulting

Pat Davis - The DAVIS Cos.

Efua T. Dufu, MSW, LCSW - Ellite Event Planning

Grace Elton - Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Ursula Furi-Perry, J.D. - Becker College

Jared E. Gentilucci - Nitsch Engineering

David Gilchrist, MD, MBA - UMass Memorial Health Care

Alvara Gjylapi - Santander Bank

Erica Grinkis - The GazBar Sports Grill

Meredith Harris - Marlborough Economic Development Corp.

Erin Jansky - Worcester Housing Authority

Ben Jones - Boston Scientific Corp

Alexis Kelleher - Crust Bakeshop; North Main Provisions

Bert LaValley - Sustainable Comfort, Inc.; deadhorse hill & simjang restaurants

Jennifer Leger - Fidelity Bank

Brian Lemerise - Quiet Logistics, Inc.

Tom Lubelczyk - The Worcester Jazz Collective

Laura Marotta - Creative Hub Worcester

Ryan Matson - Small Business Insurance Agency

Michael P. McDonough, CPA - McDonough, McDonough & Corsini, LLP

Madeline Mendoza - NewVue Communities

Jessica Morris - MCPHS University

Nathan Oriol - Oakdale Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center (Oriol Health Care)

Nicholas Pelletier - Pelletier Properties at Keller Williams North Central

Courtney E. Pelley - Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center

Lilian Radke - Unic Pro Inc.

Blaine Schnare - Harrington HealthCare System

Bonnie J. Walker - Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Learn how the winners were picked on our judges' page.

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