“Perhaps the most valuable lesson the Stowe Center displayed is that one single person, regardless of race, social class, or gender, possesses the ability to change the world.”
(From a teacher who brought a class to the Center’s program on how to make a difference and create positive change)
The Institution and the Person
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is a nonprofit museum, program center and research library in Hartford, Connecticut with an active and innovative program schedule and new house tour experience. The Center’s mission is to preserve and interpret Stowe’s home and the Center’s historic collections, promote vibrant discussion of Stowe’s life and work, and inspire commitment to social justice and positive change.
Over the past 20 years, the museum has transformed into a new kind of historic house museum. In 2018, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (1811-1896) fifty-year career, she published more than 30 books and was one of the 19th century’s most widely read authors. But it was her best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that catapulted her to international celebrity and secured her place in history. She believed her actions could make a positive difference and her book changed how Americans thought about slavery, galvanizing the antislavery movement and widening divisions that led to the Civil War. It was a controversial book when published in 1852, and remains controversial today, but its historic and literary importance and impact are undeniable. It has been translated into more than 70 languages.
The anti-slavery and justice commitments evidenced by Uncle Tom’s Cabin were not Stowe’s only passions. She wrote extensively about issues pertaining to women and gender, racism, class, domestic life, and even gardening. It is these issues around which The Center seeks to foster conversation and social action. A lively venue, the Stowe Center presents public conversations and programs that inspire positive action on social issues: award-winning Salons at Stowe, author events, film screenings, book discussions, community open houses and more. Salons at Stowe are 21st century parlor conversations inspiring participants to move from dialogue and debate to action on social justice issues they care about. Interactive tours and programs connect visitors to 19th century issues and the contemporary face of race, class and gender issues.
Stowe’s 1871 home is a National Historic Landmark, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Stowe House recently completed the first major renovation since opening in 1968, upgrading systems, adding fire suppression, and reopening with a new conversation-based tour experience. The Stowe Center holds the largest collection of materials related to Harriet Beecher Stowe: decorative arts, memorabilia, works of art, furniture, rare manuscripts and print material, images and visual media – 228,000 items — illustrating the lives and times of Stowe, her family and her era.
Since 2011, the Stowe Prize for Writing in Social Justice has been presented at the Big Tent Jubilee and is acquiring a growing national recognition. The most recent Stowe Prize winners were Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (“A Case for Reparations”). Formerly awarded bi-annually, the Stowe Prize will now be awarded annually, along with the Student Stowe Prizes. All three prizes will next be awarded in June 2018 at the Stowe Center’s principal fundraising event, the Big Tent Jubilee.
The Center hosts multiple programs and tours for schools, tourists and regional visitors. School programs promote the development of critical thinking, reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, and support Common Core Learning Standards and the Connecticut Social Studies Framework and are open to K-12 and college/university students. Students explore history, literature, and civics through multiple perspectives, including larger national themes.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is governed by a committed 14-member Board of Trustees which collaborates well with the current Executive Director, and is very engaged in the leadership transition. Diversity aspects of the Board members include ethnic, gender and generational differences, as well as corporate, legal, academia and nonprofit expertise. The Center has 20 volunteers, along with other groups of volunteers that come in two to three times a year to work on the grounds and facilities. The physical assets of the campus include three historic buildings on two and a half acres: Stowe’s 1871 home; the adjoining 1894 Katharine Seymour Day House; and its carriage house, used as the Visitor Center.
The Center has an annual operating budget of approximately $1.4 Million and is funded by earned and contributed revenue from public and private sources, including individuals, corporations, foundations, and investment proceeds from an endowment. The Center is managed by a strong and committed staff of 10 full-time employees and 12 part-time staff, and the culture is collaborative. Learn more about the Stowe Center at: https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/
Role as Executive Director
Reporting to the board of trustees, and working closely with the staff and key constituents to promote the organization’s mission, the Executive Director will have full responsibility and authority for the management and coordination of the organization’s operations and finances, supervision of the staff and their activities, and implementation of Stowe Center plans and programs in accordance with the policies formulated jointly with the staff and trustees. The Executive Director will be the organization’s primary representative to the broader community and serve as the chief fundraiser, spokesperson, and advocate of the Stowe Center, and be a visible and involved member of the Greater Hartford and Connecticut communities, as well as with select regional and national cultural opportunities.
The new Executive Director will provide strategic leadership and bring a fresh perspective; revisit, refine and implement the strategic plan and vision; leverage the Center’s assets, reputation, and experienced and talented staff; galvanize its community and alliance partnerships; implement a staff development program; drive fundraising efforts; and maintain and develop a strong relationship with the Board.
Stowe Center Strategic Goals and Vision
The Center is guided by its 2015-2020 strategic plan. The plan’s most recent update was completed in September 2017. Its four goals are:
- Extend the Stowe Center’s Reach, Recognition and Reputation to other parts of Connecticut and beyond, use technology to reach around the world, and use media to target audiences and drive recognition and participation
- Create Innovative Programming to Catalyze Social Justice Action increasing awareness of issues and historic context, providing means for action, measuring impact
- Ensure House and Collections are Accessible and Support the Social Justice Mission
- Build Sufficient Resources for Sustainability and Stewardship
Leadership Transition: Assessment and Opportunities
The current Executive Director is retiring at the end of May 2018 after nearly 20 years. She is well-respected locally and nationally, and, with the Board of Trustees and staff, led the transformation of the Center from a private foundation to a publicly oriented museum with a diverse audience, innovative programs, and expanded regional and national partnerships.
The Center seeks a new leader who can build upon the organization’s recognized assets to increasingly connect the Center’s mission with contemporary issues. To support this important leadership transition, the Center’s board has engaged TSNE MissionWorks to facilitate a thoughtful and inclusive organizational assessment and executive transition process. Participants in the process include the Center staff, board and nearly 50 community partners/stakeholders who responded to a questionnaire and conversations. The strategic plan and the organizational assessment results, describing the Center’s challenges and priorities, were used in the developing the position profile, and will inform the next leader and the Center’s goal of increasing the organization’s impact.
Profile of the Candidate
The Stowe Center Executive Director is a flagship position in the cultural landscape in Connecticut and nationally. The new director should be an experienced museum or historical site professional, with relevant knowledge of and experience with organizations like house museums and research facilities serving both the general public and scholars from around the world. The successful candidate will be passionate about the Stowe Center’s current role and future aspirations (e.g., human rights, civic engagement). The candidate will be a systems thinker, understand the big picture, and have the ability to excel in both of the Center’s principal roles – history organization and social justice organization - and be a connector on community engagement.
The new Executive Director will be a strategic thinker, a problem solver, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a coalition/team builder. The candidate must have a professional background that demonstrates the following attributes and abilities: the ability to implement change, following healthy analysis and engagement; a solid business acumen; and an eagerness and ability to quickly form and maintain relationships with a diverse group of stakeholders: local, state and national museum and cultural communities; residents; government officials and agencies; grant makers; and collaboration/alliance partners. Candidates will have proven skills in generating and using innovative approaches to enhance an organization’s impact.
The Board of the Stowe Center seeks candidates for the Executive Director role with the following experiences, abilities and personal attributes to assume the associated responsibilities:
Senior Leadership, Strategic Thinking and Planning
- Senior management experience including leading, inspiring and managing a diverse staff; managing a significant operating budget; multidisciplinary nonprofit experience; collaborating with the board; and working with a diverse group of funders and community stakeholders.
- Proven ability to provide the vision and leadership for accomplishing the mission and long-term development and growth. Experienced and accomplished public speaker serving as the primary spokesperson.
- Strong track record of strategic thinking and aligning mission, the business model, internal systems and structures, and staff and board skills, and creating/enhancing/evaluating/aligning programs and activity to support that strategy.
- Ensure the Center’s programs are of the highest scholarship and quality and meet the needs of a variety of audiences.
- Knowledge of the scope and nature of collections like the Center’s.
- Proven skills generating and using innovative approaches to enhance impact.
Strategic Communications and Community Collaborations and Alliances
- Proven ability to develop and implement marketing/communications programs creating a clear and consistent identity that generates understanding and enthusiasm for the mission and goals.
- Experience working with the media and developing an organizational communications plan that is strategic, proactive and includes emerging communications platforms (e.g., social media).
- Initiate, develop and maintain productive and mutually beneficial collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations. Demonstrated commitment to effectively represent the Center across the region’s ethnically diverse communities.
- Demonstrated experience cultivating and maintaining relationships with private and public funding sources; developing fundraising strategies and executing them in partnership with the Board.
- Experience providing leadership ensuring the success of the Center’s special events.
Operations Management and Staff Development
- Steward physical plant, ensuring the facilities, collections and grounds are well maintained and safe.
- Experience recruiting/hiring, supervising, mentoring, providing professional development opportunities and directing and evaluating senior staff in the performance of their duties.
- Demonstrated commitment to diverse staff, board and volunteers.
Financial Management and Planning
- Prepare and administer annual operating and capital budgets; ensure appropriate systems, procedures and financial controls are in place; and understand and manage multiple projects.
- Oversee all financial reporting, contractual obligations and donor/funder restrictions, and maintain appropriate internal policies and procedures ensuring such compliance.
- Manage communication with the board to provide regular comprehensive reports on revenue, expenditures and other key financial and non-financial metrics.
Governance, Board Relations and Management
- Experienced with board governance and working with the board on strategic planning, policy development, financial management, and fundraising.
- Manage and foster relationships and communications with the board of trustees; participate actively in board meetings and present its members with the information necessary to support successful and informed planning and action.
Other Minimum Qualifications
- A level of education appropriate to the position, such as an advanced degree in history, literature of the United States, American Studies, or other relevant field.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills. Ability to maintain/encourage open communications with staff, the board, volunteers and the community.
Personal Characteristics and Leadership Attributes
- Effective listener; excellent communicator; open-minded; flexible.
- Relationship/coalition builder; approachable; fair; passionate.
- Strongly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Self-confident, diplomatic; honest; sense of humor.
- Well-organized, results-driven and inspiring; maturity, judgment.
- Enthusiastic, focused, driven; visionary; managerial savvy.
This national search is being conducted by TSNE MissionWorks' Executive Transitions Program with Transition Consultant Michael Negrón. All submissions are confidential.
Electronic submissions sent via this link are preferred.
Candidates should include a resume and a cover letter, the latter expressing your passion for the mission and fit for the role at The Stowe Center. Along with salary expectations, please include how you learned of the opportunity and attach any other relevant information (e.g., published articles, presentations, etc.). All applications will be acknowledged. Applications will be accepted until the position has been filled. Applicants are encouraged to submit their candidacy within 30 days of the position posting date.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
We will seek, and welcome, a diverse pool of candidates.