Former executive at the National Audubon Society is new director at Northwestern Stables

by Carla Robinson
Posted 9/23/21

Jean Bochnowski has joined Northwestern Stables as Executive Director.

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Former executive at the National Audubon Society is new director at Northwestern Stables


New leadership and a new chapter are coming to Northwestern Stables, the historic barn on the northern edge of Chestnut Hill on Northwestern Avenue.

Jean Bochnowski, former Deputy State Director of Centers and Operations in Pennsylvania for the National Audubon Society, where she led such projects as the Discovery Center in Fairmount Park and the John James Audubon Center in Montgomery County, has joined the barn as Executive Director. She takes over from Mason Barnett, who retired this summer after three and a half years on the job.

Barnett helped stabilize barn finances and brought environmental stewardship to the barn before leaving her post in July, winning a $50,000 grant from the Schuylkill Action Network to refurbish the paddocks and improve water quality in nearby Cresheim Creek. Now, with Bochnowski on board, the barn’s Board of Directors hope to raise the money needed to renovate the aging facility.

The barn is certainly popular, and busy, with lessons that fill up fast. But while the program is thriving and pays for itself, it isn’t enough to pay for the upkeep needed by a century-old building. And both Bochnowski and the barn’s Board of Directors are committed to keeping programs fees affordable.

“The good news is that we are an important and relevant part of the community. We really are giving these young people an opportunity to learn important skills, not just how to ride but also the confidence and camaraderie that comes along with riding, particularly as they become part of the team,” she said. “But we are looking at about half a million in deferred maintenance.”

The original barn was built nearly a century ago. One wing of the barn, however, was built at the direction of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo to house the Philadelphia Mounted Police horses.

“This place, and the horses, are part of the history and fabric of Chestnut Hill,” she said. “It is really a unique asset. My goal is to advance the high-quality equestrian programming NWS had delivered for decades while tackling the challenges of maintaining an aging facility.”

Aside from offering regular riding lessons, the barn is now home to two equestrian teams: the University of Pennsylvania Equestrian Team, and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, a middle through high school team that allows people who don’t own their own horses to compete in show jumping.

Charlie King, board president, said the stables are committed to expanding their programing to include the wider community.

“We’re trying to introduce the community to the stable through programming that reaches beyond horses to include the historic and environmental aspects of who we are,” he said.

Bochnowski, who had a 17-year career with the National Audubon Society, has worked almost exclusively with mission-driven institutions, focused on youth development, animal care, and environmental conservation. In Boston, she helped turnaround the Franklin Park and Stone Zoos after years of neglect and decline.

While not a horsewoman herself, Bochnowski’s daughter has been riding at a Montgomery County therapeutic stable for years. “I have seen firsthand the power of these beautiful animals to strengthen and alter an individual’s perception of themselves and the world around them,” she said.

Raised in central Delaware, Jean originally moved back to the region in 2002 to join The Rainbow Endowment as its Executive Director and remained a member of the Board for more than 10 years. Founded in collaboration with tennis legend Martina Navratilova, the Endowment was one of the first national grantmaking organizations exclusively supporting LGBTQ+ causes.

Jean has a BS in Mass Communications from Boston University and a MS in Administration from Wilmington College. She and her wife, Karen, have three children and two rescue dogs.


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