Isaacson, Miller Seeks New Leader for the Mystic Seaport Museum

The popular Connecticut museum wants an innovative and savvy CEO who can help provide for a “bold, inclusive and sustainable future.” The job calls for the skills to run a complex and resource-intensive organization as well as a record of success in marketing, audience growth, and fundraising, among other traits.

April 17, 2020 – Museums are increasingly turning to specialist recruiters to help fill critical senior-level leadership roles. As these positions grow more sophisticated and complex, the hunt for top-flight talent to fill these roles becomes all the more important. With that, search fees across the space are rising substantially, according to recruiters. And that is something to think about in this new era of COVID -19, where assignments are tightening along with hiring budgets.

Isaacson, Miller was recently retained by the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn, to lead its search for a new president and CEO. Stephen C. White recently announced his plan to retire. Partner Anita Tien is leading the assignment along with senior associates Micah Pierce and Ryan Leichenauer. The board of trustees of the museum has established a search committee headed by former board chairman Barclay Collins to find Mr. White’s successor.

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Isaacson, Miller seeks candidates who are innovative and savvy thinkers whose vision will propel this internationally-respected cultural institution toward a bold, inclusive and sustainable future.

“The museum has a rich tradition of maritime history and culture, and seeks to relate that tradition ever more explicitly to contemporary society—leading on matters relating to the environment, ocean exploration and climate change and sea level rise,” the firm said. “Partnering with the board of trustees and the staff, the president and CEO will provide strategic direction, executive leadership and administrative guidance. The successful individual will possess the experience and knowledge to oversee a complex and resource-intensive organization; a superb operational skill-set; a record of success in marketing, audience growth and fundraising; a demonstrated commitment to strengthening diversity and workplace culture; and a natural inclination toward collaboration and community engagement.”

Key Qualifications and Characteristics

Isaacson, Miller said that the successful candidate will bring many of the following professional and personal experiences, qualifications, and characteristics:

Leadership experience: Visionary, inspirational, entrepreneurial and courageous leadership. Demonstrated success in conceiving and implementing innovative approaches that increase organizational effectiveness; a record of dynamic partnership with a committed board. Accomplished executive management, including the formulation and implementation of focused strategy, new business development, market creation, and program assessment. An ability to connect with audiences.

Professional knowledge: An understanding of the special requirements of cultural heritage institutions; appreciation for the challenges that collections-based organizations face. Familiarity with the sea and maritime culture is preferred.

Business and financial skills: A keen understanding of finances and the interplay of institutional priorities, budgeting, resource requirements and revenue generation. A demonstrated track record of innovation and informed risk-taking within a non-profit setting. Experience with digital marketing analytics and an understanding of the translation of visitor behavior into actionable business data. Ability to create a framework for allocating resources and making difficult decisions, and the skills needed to communicate the framework to the board, staff and broader community.

Substantial fundraising experience: A record of bold and effective fundraising in similar organizational contexts. Familiarity with individual and organizational giving, and professional experience that has allowed for the development of robust networks that may benefit Mystic Seaport Museum. Ability to increase visibility of an organization and a natural talent for cultivating and deepening relationships.

Why Recruiters Center On Fundraising Skills
Organizations nationwide are under pressure to find leaders who can act as de facto chief fundraisers – and recruiters are in lock step to find talent to satisfy the demand. These leaders need to be strategic thinkers who can motivate the stakeholders whose philanthropy pulls everything together.

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Personal qualities: Strong interpersonal skills, empathy and high emotional intelligence. Integrity, dependability, and steadiness; the ability to lead all members of an organization with fairness, humility and compassion. Personal and professional drive, energy, persistence, resilience and optimism. An ability to engage individuals and groups within and outside of an organization through one’s personal style, humor and warmth.

Related: Museum Search & Reference Finds Senior Curator for Vero Beach Museum of Art

Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve artifacts of America’s seafaring past, Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime museum. It is at once an indoor and open-air museum, an art museum and a living history museum. Home to over 500 historic watercraft, the museum is fundamentally an educational institution, advancing understanding of America’s relationship with the sea. Programs serve an estimated 30,000 K-12 students annually, as well as undergraduates, graduate students and professional and lay scholars.

Among the museum’s offerings are the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, a partnership with Williams College that has influenced generations of undergraduate college students through a semester-long study of the sea, and the Frank C. Munson Institute, which convenes students and faculty in the study of environmental history and maritime studies. Mystic Seaport Museum announced on March 12 that it is temporarily closing to the public to support the State of Connecticut’s efforts to stem the outbreak of COVID-19.

Transformational Leaders

A nationally recognized search firm focused on recruiting transformational leaders for mission-driven organizations, Isaacson, Miller has conducted thousands of placements over more than three decades. Chicago History Museum also recently retained the firm to assist in the search for a president. Ms. Tien is also leading this search with senior associate Joanna Cook.

Related: Metropolitan Museum of Art Taps Bridge Partners for Chief Diversity Officer 

Isaacson, Miller serves the nation’s leading arts and cultural organizations. The firm understands the dynamic challenges and opportunities specific to these types of organizations, including visual and performing arts; schools of art and design; museums; botanical gardens, aquariums, and zoos; associations advancing arts education; public radio; and funders supporting the arts.

Since Isaacson, Miller’s founding, arts and culture searches have been a vital part of its portfolio. “We serve clients who embrace the promise that art and cultural organizations truly can enrich people’s lives,” the firm said. “We strive to serve organizations that support cultural vitality in cities and towns across the country, and that foster creative, energized and forward-thinking ideas that enhance the quality of life and benefit those who live, work, and play in those communities.”

Ms. Tien conducts searches for leadership at arts and cultural organizations, foundations, and colleges and universities. Within higher education, her practice includes presidents, provosts, deans of colleges of arts and sciences, the fine and performing arts, computer and information sciences, and chief information officers.

Focused on higher education, Mr. Pierce has contributed to several high-profile searches since joining Isaacson, Miller in 2015. He helped place the system president for the University of Missouri along with the chancellor for its flagship campus. Committed to serving the civic sector, Mr. Pierce takes pride in working with non-profit, mission-driven organizations on a daily basis.

Mr. Leichenauer joined Isaacson, Miller in Boston as a senior associate in 2019. Prior to joining the firm he worked with Fontenelle Forest, Elkhorn Valley Museum and the Association of Children’s Museums.

Related: Shelli Herman and Associates Recruits CHRO for the Whitney Museum of American Art

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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