Phillips Oppenheim

President and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia, PA




We advance research, education, and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science.


The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University ("Academy") is Philadelphia's natural history museum and a world leader in biodiversity, evolution and environmental research. Founded in 1812, it is the oldest natural history museum in the country and has become, through its scientific research and extraordinary repository of natural history specimens, an international center for the study of the natural world.

With more than 18 million specimens, the Academy holds one of the largest and most significant collections of extinct and extant plants and animals in the world, with many specimens and research collections that reflect the work of naturalists and scientists, from 18th- and 19th-century collectors and explorers like Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and Joseph Leidy, to 20th-century trailblazers like biologist, Ruth Patrick. The Academy's Ewell Sale Stewart Library, established at the Academy's first meeting, is the oldest natural history library in the Americas. In 1948, before water pollution and environmental degradation were topics of public concern, the Academy established the Patrick Center for Environmental Research (PCER) and pioneered a multidisciplinary approach to assess the health of ecosystems.

Located within a cluster of 19th- and 20th-century buildings on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near many of Philadelphia's other major cultural institutions, the Academy has a full-time staff of approximately 150, with 400 volunteers, interns and co-op students. It has a 2017 operating budget of $19 million and a $55 million endowment.


While collecting and scientific research remain central to the Academy's mission, the Academy's exhibitions, public programming and outreach provide a critical bridge to the public. The museum welcomes approximately 250,000 visitors each year, including 75,000 schoolchildren, while over 600,000 engage with the Academy's science initiatives online and an additional 800,000 engage with the Academy through social media. In May 2011, this commitment to public and educational engagement grew when the Academy of Natural Sciences entered an affiliation with Drexel University to promote discovery, learning, and civic engagement in the natural and environmental sciences. This innovative partnership provides the Academy with new resources, from teaching opportunities for its scientists, to technology and media arts support for its exhibitions. In 2012, the Academy and Drexel launched a new department, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), with Academy and Drexel scientists as faculty and the Academy's rich collections as a resource for students. The Academy is also involved with Drexel's Museum Leadership Program, the School of Education, and the Institute for Energy and the Environment. Most recently, a new report on the nation's best higher education natural history museums ranked the Academy as number two in the nation based largely upon the public and student access to its world-renowned collections and scientists.

Since joining Drexel, and building on its foundation of ongoing and pathbreaking scientific work, the Academy has reimagined its public-facing role. It is now poised to become the primary science educator in Philadelphia. The Academy has an ambitious strategic plan that calls for increased, updated, intentional and high-quality engagement with visitors, both onsite and virtual. The next leader of the Academy will leverage this trajectory and enable this historic institution to assume its position as one of the most publicly-engaged and heavily-visited natural science museums in the region.

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The President and CEO will be an entrepreneurial leader and a catalyst for the Academy's continued growth and increasing impact in the community and the world. The successful candidate will effectively engage Drexel's range of resources, and develop new strategies for reinforcing the Academy's place as the "Public Stage for Science" in the Philadelphia region. The President will foster the Academy's commitment to produce and stage innovative exhibits, engaging educational programs and compelling visitor experiences, and to support the research that undergirds these initiatives. The new President will be a charismatic leader and an energetic and enthusiastic representative of the institution to all constituencies. The Academy's next leader will also be responsible for inspiring and managing a professional team of museum and education professionals and dedicated scientists.

When the Academy and Drexel combined in 2011, the Academy became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University. Hired by and reporting to the President of Drexel, the Academy's President and CEO is also a Senior Vice President of the University and a member of the Drexel President's senior management team. The Academy's President and CEO also reports to the Academy's 32-person Board of Trustees. Five members of the Academy's Board are appointed by Drexel, including the University President, CFO and Provost, and the independent Trustees are elected by the Academy subject to the approval of Drexel. In addition to leading and managing the affairs of the Academy, the Academy's President and CEO will also energetically build relationships throughout the University, in service of the University's educational mission.


Key institutional priorities for the new President and CEO include, but are not limited to:


  • Embrace the core institutional values identified in the Academy's Sustainable Strategic Plan 2012-2018, implement the Plan and lead the next phase of strategic planning;
  • Lead and inspire with a consistent, empathetic manner that encourages talent development, diversity and inclusion;
  • Serve as an intentional manager and motivator for Academy staff, ensuring a productive, empowering, supportive and collaborative working environment;
  • Continue to reinforce the alignment of the Academy's mission with Drexel's priorities by developing close working relationships with the President, Provost and other Drexel administrators and faculty;
  • Champion the visitor experience and public engagement by encouraging and supporting strategic initiatives that increase attendance, and engage both onsite and virtual visitors in the world of science;
  • Support continued excellence in scientific research and scholarship leveraging the assets within the Academy and more broadly throughout Drexel University;
  • Assure that the Academy's collections, library and archives, which are held in public trust for future generations, are preserved through a commitment to their thoughtful and active growth and stewardship;
  • Ensure that the physical facilities at the Academy are optimized both for outstanding visitor experiences and for supporting the Academy's scientific and cultural assets.


  • Serve as the face of the institution, embodying its mission and brand; be an enthusiastic and highly-visible ambassador, fundraiser and advocate for the Academy; create brand awareness that articulates the depth and importance of the distinct programs of the Academy (research, education and public impact);
  • Work closely with Drexel and the Academy Board to cultivate important new fundraising relationships; oversee completion of capital campaign for the Library Research Center and new exhibition gallery, as well as other capital and visitor experience improvements;
  • Pursue collaborative opportunities with partners in the academic, scientific, educational, environmental, and cultural communities in Philadelphia and beyond; serve as a leader in sustainability in the region and become the foremost resource for environmental issues relevant to its audiences;
  • Maintain the Academy's position as a leading research and academic institution in the natural and environmental sciences.


The President and CEO will have:

  • A record of successfully implementing institutional priorities with conviction and clarity;
  • A passion for the Academy's, public-facing mission, and a demonstrated love for museums and collections;
  • A proven track record for successful and visionary leadership in the natural history, museum, nonprofit or business sectors;
  • Enthusiasm and talent for fundraising with successful experience in identifying, cultivating and soliciting major donors, foundation grants and corporate sponsorships;
  • A record as a creative and collaborative team player, and a willingness to engage and be highly visible within the community on behalf of an organization;
  • Experience working with a board and ability to attract, recruit and engage a strong, diverse and committed Board of Trustees;
  • The ability to assume a leadership position in the Philadelphia cultural and business communities, and beyond;
  • Knowledge of, or appreciation for, working within an academic environment;
  • Experience in repositioning the physical plant of an older institution.


The President will be an experienced administrator and ambassador whose values align with Drexel's inclusive, forward-facing and entrepreneurial culture. The President will be a dynamic leader with an inclusive style and proper temperament to empower staff, engage the Academy Board, and represent the Academy within the Drexel community. A person of high intellectual rigor, the new President will also have outstanding interpersonal qualities and the ability to focus, prioritize and execute. Exceptional communication skills are essential, as is the capacity to be firm, fair, flexible and empathetic. As a leader within two historic institutions, the new President will be politically savvy and diplomatic and experienced in navigating complex situations and organizations. The new President will have integrity and common sense.

Please send applications or nominations to Susan Meade and Addie Jones at

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