Remembering Michael Towbes – Lotusland Lifetime Honorary Trustee
Michael Towbes believed in Lotusland. He, along with the Towbes Foundation and Montecito Bank & Trust, generously supported the garden even before Lotusland opened to the public in 1993. As a testament to his level of dedication, Mike donated the most valuable of all resources—his time— serving on the Board of Trustees for 12 years during the organization’s nascent period, beginning in 1992. Mike attended groundbreaking ceremonies, ribbon cuttings, celebrations and events, and he was present at many of the most crucial junctures in Lotusland’s early years as a public garden. Mike and Anne Towbes further reinforced their profound connection to the garden when they exchanged wedding vows under the shade of oaks in the Upper Bromeliad Garden on September 4, 2005. In recognition of Mike’s wise counsel and many years of leadership that helped Lotusland move forward in meeting its goals of preservation, education and conservation, he was named Lifetime Honorary Trustee in 2005.
Mike’s business acumen, generosity and creativity will have a lasting and positive influence on the garden for decades to come. He was instrumental in helping produce a Master Plan, guiding the Finance Committee, and restoring the Horticultural Clock and Topiary Garden. From the beginning, he supported Lotusland’s longest running public educational program— the Environmental Horticulture Work Experience Program with Santa Barbara City College—and funded docent training. He helped with tasks small and large, from securing new computers to joining as a charter member of The Lotus Society, Lotusland’s legacy program. Perhaps the greatest achievement was Mike’s role in making the new Cactus Garden possible by chairing the I Like Mike campaign that raised the necessary funds to build this incredible garden.
Gwen Stauffer, Lotusland’s CEO, remembers Mike this way, “Mike’s contributions to Lotusland are vast, but I will remember most the very personal gift he gave to Paul Mills, our Curator of Living Collections. Upon learning that Paul was conserving rare Galapagos Island cactuses that he had never seen in the wild, Mike immediately sponsored a trip to the Galapagos Islands for Paul. Mike had a deep understanding and appreciation for Lotusland, calling it “an oasis of tranquility in a chaotic world.”
Mike’s daughter, Carrie, perfectly describes the nature of her father; “Mike will be remembered as a pillar of the Santa Barbara community. For years, he has been admired as a savvy entrepreneur, a generous humanitarian and a true gentleman. He believed in working hard to build a better world and giving back to the community that had given him so much.”
Thank you, Mike, for having the vision to see Lotusland’s potential and for supporting our mission.