The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) announced on Wednesday that Chevy Humphrey would take over as president and CEO, making her the first Black and female head of the 94-year-old museum.
She replaces David Mosena, who is retiring at the end of the year after 23 years in charge, and after securing a $125 million donation from billionaire Ken Griffin last October. Mosena came to the job subsequent to serving as planning commissioner, aviation commissioner, and president of the Chicago Transportation Authority under Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Humphrey hails from a different part of the country: since 1998, she has worked at the Arizona Science Center (ASC), a science museum in Phoenix. She had five different jobs at the institution before being appointed CEO in 2005. (Before her time there, she was director of development at the Phoenix Symphony.)
“I learned what we do, fell in love with science, and fell in love with how we impact our community,” she said in an interview with the Herald on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m a lifelong learner and I always want to learn, and I think what keeps me happy is that I always learned something new from everyone.”
In 2019, nearly 300,000 schoolchildren visited the MSI, according to the museum’s website. That figure, of course, dropped off a cliff in the past half year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the museum first closed and then slowly began to reopen in August. (With public health protocols implemented, like a disposable stylus for touching buttons and screens.)
“Now that a lot of school kids and teachers are doing things on a virtual platform, we really need to provide that hands-on experience and pedagogy to these teachers so that they can provide these ‘aha’ moments in their science lessons,” she said. “And when they do visit the museum, there’s, ‘Oh, I learned about this in school, and this is how it works.’ ”
In Arizona, Humphrey pointed to the work the ASC did to bring science programming to resource-poor rural communities. “I see more of that can be done, because I think it’s needed much more,” she said. “You have to meet communities where they are, find out what the need is, and then try to figure out how to fill that need and fill that gap.”
“It’s very humbling, to be in this role, and I hope that I will help other young people be able to break barriers and reach their goals,” she said. “I don’t take the position very lightly, and I believe that I need to model the leadership so others will see that if they have a dream they can actually achieve it.”