With a property like Meadow Brook Hall, it takes a person with big vision and an even bigger work ethic to make significant changes – and that is exactly what his colleagues said newly retired Executive Director Geoff Upward did for this legendary property.
With a career spanning decades of service to Oakland University and 16 years at the helm of Meadow Brook Hall, Upward retired this January. Officials said Upward’s leadership in spearheading critical projects and business initiatives has had a transformative impact on the National Historic Landmark, museum, cultural center and event venue.
“It is difficult to overstate the incredible legacy that Geoff built at Meadow Brook Hall,” said Shannon O’Berski, director of external relations at Meadow Brook Hall. “It is rare for an organization to find a leader who combines vision, creativity and practicality at once. Geoff transformed Meadow Brook in so many ways. Not only did he turn our business operations around at a critical time, but he created new ways to interpret and preserve the Great Estate and set us on a sustainable path for an exciting future.”
Faced with a $1.5 million deficit when he started at Meadow Brook in 2004, Upward restructured business operations and achieved profitability in his first full year—and for every year since (until the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered The Hall for most of 2020). Since then, Upward has achieved a slew of key accomplishments, from successfully managing several major restoration and preservation projects, oversaw massive annual fundraising efforts, created a membership program, established the Meadow Brook Press that publishes books and a biannual magazine, and sought and successfully received a National Historic Landmark designation in 2012.
Prior to taking on the Executive Director role at Meadow Brook, Upward served in a number of positions at Oakland, including interim vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, director of University Communications and Marketing from 1995-2008, acting vice president for University Relations and director of Publications. Upward earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Albion College and Master of Arts degree at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Jillian Gust, Meadow Brook’s director of Administration and Finance, is currently serving as the Interim Executive Director while a search is underway.
Meadow Brook Hall is the historic home built by one of the automotive aristocracy’s most remarkable women, Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson. Constructed between 1926 and 1929, Meadow Brook Hall represents one of the finest examples of Tudor-revival style architecture in America, and is especially renowned for its superb craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale of 88,000 square-feet.
It was the center of a country estate that included 1,500 acres, numerous farm buildings, recreational facilities, several residences and formal gardens. Named a National Historic Landmark in 2012, Meadow Brook Hall strives to preserve the estate and share the pioneering legacy of the Dodge and Wilson families by engaging and inspiring diverse audiences. Meadow Brook Hall is located in Rochester on the campus of Oakland University.