National Civil Rights Museum President Beverly Robertson today announced her retirement, effective July 1, 2014, after leading the museum through 16 years of "momentous progress and accomplishments," Board Chairman Herbert Hilliard said.
"Since 1997, Beverly has led the museum in an era characterized by exciting progress, accomplishment, and growing national and international prestige, all of which are a direct result of her special brand of leadership and her commitment to being a steward for one of America's most hallowed historic places," said Hilliard.
"Although she is retiring at the end of our fiscal year in July, 2014, she will remain involved through the rest of the calendar year to ensure a smooth transition and continuity in leadership."
Robertson said she's retiring because she has seen the National Civil Rights Museum through the major goals that she had set for herself as president.
"In my 16 years, I have seen the museum through dramatic changes that include an expansion that took it to a place of local, regional, national, and international prominence; to dramatic changes in the demographics of our visitors; to numerous successful Freedom Award programs, including one that brought the greatest human rights leader of our time to Memphis, Nelson Mandela; and to the final stages of the our most significant capital and endowment campaigns which total $40 million and will bring major changes in the way we present our content," she said.
"Leaders know when it is time to step down and it's my time. Everything has a season, and I've had mine. It has been my honor to serve at this sacred place, and I look forward to helping the next president take it forward."
Hilliard said some of Robertson's accomplishments include:
• Accreditation of the National Civil Rights Museum by the American Alliance of Museums – a designation only five percent of museums achieve
• Transformation of the museum into a strong, fiscally sound organization
• Two major renovation projects – One, in 2002, which examined the assassination and continuing struggle for civil rights in a 12,800 square foot addition. And currently, the $27 million renovation scheduled to open in early March, 2014, that adds new exhibitry, more automation, state-of the art interactivity, an educational and cultural center, more meeting space, and a redesigned lobby
• Designation as one of only six U.S. sites of conscience by International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
• National media attention securing coverage on major national and international media including the History Channel, CNN, HBO, and the 2009 Academy Award nominated documentary, The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306
• Recognition of the museum as "one of the top 10 American treasures" and the third "most iconic site" in the nation by USA Today
• Inspired the creation of Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Game
• Development of a long-term relationship with the NBA and establishment of the signature Memphis Grizzlies King Day Game
• Designation as custodian of police files and court documents in the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the first museum of its kind to receive evidence and court documents in a criminal case
"Every aspect of the Museum has improved as a result of Beverly's management and leadership," said J.R. Hyde III, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Civil Rights Museum.
"She became president six years after the Museum opened, and she set ambitious priorities for it to achieve national stature, to be recognized as one of the best heritage museums in the world, and to improve both internal operations and external programs so they set the standard for other heritage museums. She has been successful on all fronts, and because of it, the Museum is strongly positioned for the future and all of us in Memphis owe her a debt of gratitude."
Robertson has represented the National Civil Rights Museum on various national and international museum boards, she has been a frequent speaker at national museum conferences, and she has received numerous awards including the National Community Service Award, National Council of LaRaza Capital Awards, African Diaspora Award, and Briggs Foundation Award.
Hilliard said that the museum will conduct a national search for Robertson's successor.