Director of Highfield Hall Moves on to New Job

Barbara Milligan in the livingroom at Highfield Hall
ELIZABETH SAITO/ENTERPRISE - Barbara Milligan in the livingroom at Highfield Hall

After 10 years as the president and CEO of Highfield Hall & Gardens, Barbara J. Milligan, 50, is leaving to head the Cape and Islands chapter of the United Way. 

Built in 1878, Highfield Hall is a restored summer mansion adjacent to Beebe Woods conservation land in central Falmouth. The hall was in shambles when the town took possession of it through eminent domain in 2000.

Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn was president of Highfield’s board of trustees when it hired Ms. Milligan in 2004.

“Well, I’ll tell you, she is an incredible person,” Ms. Flynn said of Ms. Milligan. “She managed that whole renovation, the board, the contractors, everyone. The United Way is so lucky.”

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Sitting in her third floor office, Ms. Milligan said yesterday that she is ready for a new professional challenge.

“I feel I’ve done all I can do for Highfield Hall; it’s been a glorious ride,” she said, adding, “I feel Highfield Hall is in a good position to weather the transfer of leadership and new energy will be good for the organization.”

“When you get to be 50, you start thinking about your legacy, and the impact you want to have,” Ms. Milligan said, in explaining her decision to switch jobs.

The United Way, as the largest funder of human services on the Cape, is a “broader opportunity” for doing good, she said. “I just feel that giving back is really important.”

Ms. Milligan begins her new job with the United Way on June 2. She will continue to live at her Hatchville home and commute to Hyannis. “I’m so happy I’m able to stay here,” she said. “I love Falmouth.”

Ms. Flynn said Ms. Milligan is a talented fundraiser, “able to make donors feel confident” that their money will be well spent.

“I’ve learned so much at Highfield, and become a fundraiser,” Ms. Milligan said.

Philanthropy accounts for 40 percent of Highfield’s $600,000 operating budget. Another 15 percent comes from private functions, such as weddings; 15 percent from music performances, admission and classes; 15 percent from annual fundraising events; 8 percent from a roughly $2 million endowment; and 7 percent from tenants in the building, according to Ms. Milligan.

Highfield Hall rents office space to four tenants: an international shipping company, an architect, a financial advisor, and a retail recruiter. 

Ms. Milligan offered this final reflection: “Highfield Hall is not about me; I’ve been the leader, but the community support—the love and joy they poured into this building—made my job easy.”

A search committee has been formed, but has not yet met, according to Highfield trustee president, Margaret H. Pierce of Woods Hole and Weston.

In the meantime, Annie H. Dean, Highfield’s director of programs and exhibitions, will serve as the managing director.

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