Historical society names new director

March 19, 2007|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,Sun Art Critic

The fiscal expert who stepped in as interim director of the Maryland Historical Society last October when historian W. Eric Emerson resigned the top post after less than four months on the job, has been named head of the 163-year-old institution.

Robert W. Rogers, the society's long-time chief financial officer, was unanimously appointed director by the trustees, said board president Henry H. Stansbury.

"Over the past months, it has become increasingly clear to trustees that Rob is an excellent choice," Stansbury said in a statement. "We are confident that he will provide strong and fiscally responsible leadership. At the same time we are impressed by the fact that he is flexible in his thinking and very open to new ideas."

The historical society is the state's oldest cultural institution. In recent years, it has struggled to regain firm financial footing after years of deficits stemming from a decade of rapid growth but essentially flat revenues.

Last year, the society cut its staff by a fifth and restructured its departments in an effort to narrow a $1.4 million budget gap.

Rogers, 37, said he and the board are engaged in a wide-ranging strategic planning effort to chart the group's direction.

"We're trying to make decisions about everything we offer," Rogers said. "We've gone back to looking at our collection, how we use it and how we can attract more diverse audiences through collaborative exhibitions like At Freedom's Door, our current show on slavery."

Rogers expects to cut the budget deficit approximately in half this year, to around $700,000. The society has an annual budget of $4.2 million and an endowment of just under $17 million, he said.

The new director also cited growth in the number of visitors, memberships and fund-raising as positive signs. For example, the number of visits by schoolchildren is projected to be 78,000 this fiscal year, up from 40,000 last year, and the society has added 300 new members since July, he said.

In addition, the society seems on track to meet its fund-raising target of $750,000 by the end of the fiscal year in July. Rogers said the group has raised about $600,000 so far.

Board members praised Rogers for the steady hand with which he has guided the society through a difficult period.

"He's a proven leader," Stansbury said last week, noting this was the second time that Rogers had provided stability and direction at a crucial juncture for the group.

In 2005, Stansbury said, Rogers served as acting director after Emerson's predecessor as director, Dennis Fiori, resigned to head the Massachusetts Historical Society.

"Rob had to step into the breach when Dennis left, and with very little experience he did an incredible job," Stansbury said. "When Eric left, Rob was thrown into the breach a second time, and by then he really knew the ropes. I've worked with him closely over the last several months and he's really ready for this role. He's a proven commodity."

Stansbury also noted that the staff rallied strongly behind Rogers. "They came to me and the other trustees and encouraged us to appoint him," he said.

Board chairwoman Barbara P. Katz described Rogers as a leader skilled in bringing people together.

"He's a great consensus builder," Katz said. "His thoughtful and inclusive style of management has made him deeply respected by both trustees and staff."

Rogers had been the society's chief financial officer since 2004. Before that he was executive vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and chief financial officer of the National Arts Strategies.

A native of Indiana who spent his formative years in Maryland, Rogers attended the University of Baltimore, where he received a bachelor of art degree in business administration in 1992. He lives with his wife and three children in Lutherville.

glenn.mcnatt@baltsun.com

Robert W. Rogers

Age:

37

Born:

Kokomo, Ind.

Raised:

Frederick, Gaithersburg, Towson

Education:

University of Baltimore, B.A. in business administration, 1992.

Family:

He and his wife, Christina, have three daughters, Sarah, 12; Emily, 9 and Abigail, 2

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