Executive Search for Not-for-Profit Cultural Institutions

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Discovery Place, Charlotte, North Carolina

Discovery Place

Challenge

Discovery Place was one of the pioneering science and technology centers in the country. Its founder and guiding spirit was its President, Freda Nicholson, a “living legend” in the field and in the museum world in general. During her 20 years at the helm, Freda mentored and trained a new generation of leaders. Now she was retiring from Discovery Place, and in many minds, she was irreplaceable. The Board called upon Opportunity Resources to find her successor.

Solution

We were excited by the challenge and optimistic about attracting a new leader for Discovery Place. The institution was a leader in its field and the constant changes in science and technology provided a new President/CEO with an opportunity to place their own stamp on the institution. The new President/CEO would play a leading role in planning exhibitions and related programs, freshening others and making structural changes, including reconfiguring the building entrance.

This was an international search. Many of the new cutting edge science/discovery museums were in Asia and Australia, and we recruited there, as well as throughout the US and Canada.

Interestingly, the successful candidate, John Mackay, had been trained and mentored by Freda Nicholson. John is a biologist and environmentalist and spent nine years in two tours of duty at Discovery Place in Charlotte. He went to Birmingham in 1993 as President/CEO, to build the McWane Center, an $80 million science and technology museum, and his dream job was returning to Discovery Place as its CEO. His commitment to the advancement of the science center continues to be very strong, along with his commitment to leading Discovery Place over the coming years.