Brookgreen Gardens Announces Election of Three New Members to Board of Trustees

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. – Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, is pleased to announce the election of three new members to the Board of Trustees: Walter Matia, Rhonda Coker, and Jeffrey D. Knowles.

After earning degrees from Williams College in Massachusetts, Walter Matia worked in the exhibits department at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and The Nature Conservancy. He started his art studio, Curlew Casting, in 1984, and since then, his works have been exhibited across the country. Matia is a master signature member of the Society of Animal Artists, a fellow of the National Sculpture Society, and a master wildlife artist at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. He resides in Dickerson, Maryland with his wife, Dr. Pamela Lewis Matia, and two children. He currently serves on the board of the American Bird Conservancy (Treasurer of the Auction Fund), Old Town Pet Resort, and Fried Family Foundation, previously the American Museum of Fly Fishing and Society of Animal Artists.

Rhonda Coker is the former owner and manager of Young Plantations Pecans. She graduated from Converse University with a bachelor's degree in accounting. Coker currently serves on the boards of Converse University and Black Creek Arts Council and previously served on the board of Kalmia Gardens of Coker University. She and her husband, Howard, have three children and currently reside in Hartsville, SC.

Jeffrey D. Knowles attended Columbia College at Columbia University in New York City and New York Law School (NYLS). Jeff started his legal career on Wall Street before returning to his hometown of Washington, DC to start his own law firm. He currently serves as a member and Co-Vice Chairman of the NYLS Board of Trustees. He also served for many years on Columbia College’s Board of Visitors. In 1990, Jeff founded the Electronic Retailing Association, an international, nonprofit industry trade association representing television and internet advertisers and marketers. He also served for 25 years as General Counsel, a member of the Board of Directors, and later as Chairman of the Board of the Association. After practicing law for 46 years in New York and Washington, DC, Jeff retired at the end of 2021 from Venable LLP, a large national law firm, where he founded and served as the Chair of the firm’s Government Division, as a longtime member of the firm’s Management Committee and as Chair of the firm’s Advertising, Marketing and New Media Practice Group.

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About Brookgreen Gardens
Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Landmark and 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is located on U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast, and is open to the public daily. Founded in 1931 by Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Huntington, Brookgreen is home to the largest and most significant collection of American Figurative Sculpture in the country and is a leader in sculpture conservation, environmental conservation, and the protection of the plants, animals, and history of the South Carolina Lowcountry. For more information, visit our website at or call 843-235-6000.

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