|Scott Witte became director of horticulture at Cantigny Park in 2018, one year after Project New Leaf began. He was previously director of agronomy (superintendent) at Cantigny Golf, where he served 23 years.
Witte holds a bachelor’s degree in Crop and Soil Sciences and Turfgrass Management from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in Leadership Studies from North Central College in Naperville. The Milwaukee native is a licensed apiarist and a strong advocate for honeybees and other vital pollinators.
We asked Scott about his team’s key role in Project New Leaf.
Q: You stepped into your current position when Project New Leaf was well underway. Was that a big adjustment?
A: Yes, definitely! The phrase “hit the ground running” comes to mind. Although I’d managed several large projects at Cantigny Golf during the previous two decades, nothing compares to the immense scope and scale of Project New Leaf.
Q: The project has so many moving parts. How do you manage the complexity?
A: This is where one of the key core values of the McCormick Foundation kicks in. We strive for greater impact through collaboration! I rely on the expertise of my staff every day—Todd Henderson, Craig Kruckenberg, Beau Nagan, Francisco Cabral, Bob Carr and the entire Cantigny Horticulture team. All of us make sure the details and demands of the project are addressed. We also work closely with our Director of Facility Services, Ed Holzman, the Featherstone construction management team, and the Sasaki & Associates design team. This high level of collaboration is paramount for bringing Project New Leaf to life.
Q: You occupy one of the three homes on Cantigny property. How does that affect your work?
A: Please pardon the coined phrase, but “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Living on property brings great joy to my wife Sue and me. While I’ve only lived on property for two of my 25 years with Cantigny, I’ve always done my best to infuse my passion into everything I do here. I believe this deep connection to the property, and to the mission of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, brings out the best in me, and in my work.
Q: What is your favorite post-renovation feature in the park (and why)?
A: I have many favorite places in the park, but few compare to the magnificent sunrises and sunsets atop Butterfly Hill! What was once just an ugly pile of excess soil from Phase I construction rose up to become an amazing native prairie, and a stunning vantage point for park visitors. It will always be the place I’m most proud of.
Q: You once owned a truck with “Turf Man” license plates. Do you ever gaze longingly over the fence at Cantigny Golf, and all that beautiful green grass?
A: The best gaze over the fence is from Butterfly Hill, and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 34 years in the golf industry, I’ve embraced my new role in the horticultural realm with complete contentment, and no regrets!