ALPENA - After considering 28 applicants for the position of executive director of the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, the museum's board of trustees has selected interim Director Chris Witulski in a unanimous vote of approval.
"There is a strong feeling amongst the board that Chris will bring to the Besser Museum an enthusiasm and passion that will be contagious not only to the other very capable staff members and the board of trustees, but to the community at-large," Steve Lappan, board vice president and a member of the search committee, said.
Lappan said Witulski's passion was evident earlier in the year when the annual Fall Harvest celebration, under her leadership, more than doubled in attendance and showcased in a positive light what the museum offers.
"We look forward to seeing Chris bring new excitement and exhibits to the people of Northeast Michigan and beyond," Lappan said.
Witulski took over as interim in October 2011 when the previous director, Elaine Grehl, resigned after only six months in Alpena. Although the board expressed satisfaction and confidence in Witulski's performance as interim director, the decision was made in September to launch a nationwide search so as to ultimately ensure the credibility of the executive director position.
A four-member search committee comprised of Lappan and fellow board members Carol Witherbee, Gary Goren and Chair Greg Adamus, was put into place and advertised the position locally, within the state and nationwide. Those efforts drew six local candidates, 17 from throughout Michigan and 11 from out of state.
Adamus said the committee conducted three rounds of reviews and voting on the 28 applications received.
"The single unanimous selection was an endorsement of the museum's current interim director, Chris Witulski," Adamus said, adding the decision to go with her was made with the "greatest of confidence and sincerity so that the committee arrived at one and only one emphatic, manifest recommendation."
Following the search committee's recommendation, the full board then also voted unanimously in November to go with Witulski. She expressed pleasure over the recent decision.
"I feel honored to be appointed as the executive director for Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan," Witulski said. "When I first started working at the Besser Museum in 2009 as the education director, I quickly realized how privileged I was to have such an amazing job. I work with a very dedicated team that is passionate about caring for this institution."
She also said she is fortunate to work with many volunteers from all over Northeast Michigan who through special committees and programs such as exhibitions, lectures and events, help to bring the museum to life.
"Since working at the museum, I've come to appreciate and value what Northeast Michigan has to offer in the way of natural resources, industry, education, cultural activities and individual achievements," Witulski said. "One of the museum's goals is to enthusiastically share the appreciation of the region with the community through our exhibitions and educational programs."
Witulski said she is always surprised when people share with her that they have never visited the museum or that they have not been to the museum since elementary school.
"Many of these same visitors express their astonishment over all the museum has to offer," she said. "It is my hope that more people living in Northeast Michigan come and visit and experience the museum for themselves. It is also my hope that people continue to value and financially support this wonderful cultural institution Jesse Besser started almost 50 years ago."
Toward that end, Witulski and the museum currently are conducting a membership drive during December that is tied in with a matching grant offered through the Besser Foundation. For every new dollar the museum raises, the foundation will contribute a $2 match.
"We are asking people to consider giving the gift of a Besser Museum membership this year for a Christmas gift," Witulski said. "Not only will their loved ones get an awesome gift, but they will also be supporting the Besser Museum through helping with the matching grant."
Diane Speer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5691.