HomeScienceNatural History Museum Names College Leader as New Chief

Natural History Museum Names College Leader as New Chief

Because the American Museum of Pure Historical past prepares to open its new science middle in February, the establishment on Tuesday chosen as its new president Sean M. Decatur, a biophysical chemist who at present serves because the president of Kenyon Faculty.

“I’ve spent my profession dedicated to entry and alternative for college kids and likewise to an understanding of science,” Decatur stated in a phone interview. “This appears like a pure evolution.”

Decatur, 54, who begins on April 3, succeeds Ellen V. Futter, who will step down in March after a 30-year tenure. On condition that Futter was the primary feminine president and that Decatur would be the first Black chief, Scott L. Bok, the chairman of the museum’s board, stated this type of progress was “overdue amongst giant establishments like ours.”

“Take a look at the town that we stay in,” Bok added. “We clearly would really like the museum to talk to extra individuals.”

Though Kenyon and the pure historical past museum are comparable when it comes to funds and workers dimension, Decatur has by no means led a cultural establishment. And he might be taking up simply as the sector has been dealing with challenges together with the coronavirus pandemic, problems with range and political debate over local weather change.

However Bok stated Decatur’s outsider perspective might be a plus. “Possibly it’s useful that he’s not from a museum background,” Bok stated, “to consider how can we make the place nice for the following 50 years.”

Decatur acknowledged that his appointment as one in all few Black museum chiefs could have vital symbolism. However he additionally stated “range, fairness and inclusion is everybody’s work.”

“It’s a collective effort,” he added, “that has to contain the establishment as an entire and never essentially fall on single people.”

Decatur has the benefit of inheriting a accomplished main capital undertaking — the Gilder Middle, the brand new science wing designed by the architect Jeanne Gang. However he’ll nonetheless have his work reduce out for him in having to cope with extra pricey overhead due to the extra wing and the strain to make the $431 million new science middle successful.

Furthermore, the museum needs to proceed constructing on its position as an educator, having provided a doctoral-degree program in comparative biology since 2008 and a grasp’s program in educating science since 2011.

Decatur’s fund-raising abilities might be examined at a time when cultural organizations all around the nation are nonetheless recovering from Covid closures and growing competitors for philanthropic {dollars}. The Pure Historical past museum has an working funds of about $186 million and greater than 1,000 full- and part-time staffers (Kenyon’s funds is about $180 million and the varsity has greater than 600 individuals on its college and workers).

Born in Cleveland, Decatur grew up visiting his mom’s classroom; Doris Decatur for practically 40 years taught math and science within the Cleveland public faculties. At 6 years previous, younger Sean memorized the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“He was this little man,” Doris Decatur advised the Kenyon Alumni Journal in 2013. “He acquired up and did that speech from starting to finish, with out stumbling or forgetting it. Everyone knew him — the little boy who does the Martin Luther King speech. He talked concerning the purple hills, and, oh, that they had a match. It was a type of issues that introduced tears to your eyes.”

He earned his bachelor’s diploma from Swarthmore Faculty and in 1995 was awarded a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from Stanford College.

Decatur served as an assistant and affiliate professor of chemistry at Mount Holyoke Faculty, a visiting scientist on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin Faculty.

Beneath his management, which started in 2013, Kenyon joined the American Expertise Initiative, a coalition of schools working to increase entry and alternative, and inaugurated the Kenyon Entry Initiative to extend range and foster inclusion.

Decatur, who has been on sabbatical from Kenyon since July, is married to Renee Romano, a professor of historical past and of comparative American research and Africana research at Oberlin Faculty. They’ve two grownup youngsters.

“There’s a lot that interprets from larger training to the cultural world, however there are additionally going to be numerous new issues to study, each about this kind of establishment and concerning the museum specifically,” Decatur stated. “I’m excited to get began.”

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