Conner Prairie president, CEO to retire at year’s end


    Duane Brodt
    Director of Public Relations
    Conner Prairie
    (800) 966-1836

    FISHERS, Ind. (Thursday, June 4, 2015/Conner Prairie) – Conner Prairie President and CEO Ellen M. Rosenthal announced today that she will retire from her position at the end of the year.

    Rosenthal assumed leadership of Conner Prairie in 2003 and was named president and CEO in 2005. She engineered the transformation of Conner Prairie from a traditional living history museum into today’s independent, immersive and interactive history park.

    Her focus on experiential learning and guest immersion now attracts more than 360,000 visitors annually. Under her guidance, Conner Prairie’s annual operational budget has grown to nearly $12 million.

    “This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” said Rosenthal during an early-morning meeting with employees today. “As I looked back on what I set out to accomplish when I took over leadership, I realized how much we’ve completed and realized that it was time to retire. Working at Conner Prairie for the last 16 years has been the most rewarding segment of my long career in the museum industry.”

    >> Rosenthal’s complete biography and a high-resolution image: http://bit.ly/1FSfKtF
    >> Conner Prairie’s latest fact sheet: http://bit.ly/1M1rcob

    Also under Rosenthal’s leadership, Conner Prairie:

    •    Was awarded the nation’s highest honor for museums, the National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services;
    •    Raised $4.5 million to create and open the outdoor experience Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana in 2011;
    •    Received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help open the indoor experience Create.Connect in 2014;
    •    Was selected as one of six museums nationwide to be featured in “Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement,” published by AAM Press; and
    •    Became Indiana’s only Smithsonian-affiliated museum, a partnership that offers the museum’s members and visitors Smithsonian-related amenities and benefits.

    “Ellen has mixed emotions about her decision but considered it at great length before arriving at her conclusion,” said Conner Prairie Board of Directors Chairman Christopher Clapp. “Her passion to engage and inspire learning has enhanced Conner Prairie’s reputation locally and globally. Ellen has accomplished many of the initiatives that she set out to address and feels it is time to turn her attention solely to her family.”

    As part of Conner Prairie’s transformation, Rosenthal led the staff and board through a process of redefining the museum’s mission, which is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana’s past by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences.

    Rosenthal has advocated for active engagement and learning that transcends generations and strategic, data-driven decision-making. She piloted conversation-based learning studies at Conner Prairie that morphed into an innovative approach toward maximizing the visitor experience, called Opening Doors. Since, the process has been implemented by 1,200 museums worldwide and has touched the lives of more than 26 million museum visitors.

    Originally from New Jersey, Rosenthal earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York City; a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture through the University of Delaware in Wilmington, Del.; and a master’s degree in public management with highest honors from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

    She received a Commitment to Creativity Trailblazer award from University High School in 2014, a Torchbearer award from the state of Indiana in 2013, was named a Leading Light Risk Taker by Women and Hi-Tech in 2012 and was cited for Excellence in Innovation by the Indiana Innovation Awards in 2012. In 2011, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels named Rosenthal to the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial Commission and the Hamilton County Leadership Council cited her as a distinguished alumni. In 2008, the Indianapolis Business Journal named Rosenthal a Woman of Influence and in 2006, former Gov. Daniels named her a Distinguished Hoosier. 

    Rosenthal joined Conner Prairie in 1999 as vice president of internal affairs. Previously, much of her career focused on developing new museums and exhibits. At the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minn., and Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh, she planned the opening of historic houses to the public. She oversaw planning for the creation of the Sen. John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh and later served as chief curator, responsible for changing exhibits. As curatorial director for the American History Workshop in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rosenthal managed projects for the National Museum of American History, South Street Seaport Museum and National Endowment for the Humanities. Her first three and a half years at Conner Prairie, she functioned as vice president for internal affairs.

    She is married to Ted Logan, an oncologist with Indiana University Health. The couple resides in Indianapolis and has three grown sons, Daniel, Sam and Paul.

    “A visiting professional once said to me, ‘If you could bottle and sell the passion and enthusiasm that Conner Prairie employees bring to their work, you could make a fortune,’” Rosenthal said. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with talented staff members and volunteers. Our board members are committed to the museum and actively engage in its governance. Our adult and youth volunteers give countless hours and our women’s and young professionals groups, the Conner Prairie Alliance and Horizon Council, work creatively and selflessly to raise money for the organization.

    “It’s been a great privilege to see Conner Prairie develop from a quiet living history museum to a vibrant, highly visited destination for hundreds of thousands of families and students every year,” she said. “I look forward to actively leading our team through the end year and preparing Conner Prairie for its future successes under its next president and CEO.”

    Conner Prairie’s board of directors is in the process of engaging a national recruiting firm that specializes in executive leadership to identify candidates for Rosenthal’s successor.

    Spanning 850 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes more than 360,000 guests of all ages annually. As Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.

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    Conner Prairie is a nationally acclaimed interactive history park. Its mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiencing. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call 317.776.6000 or 800.966.1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate. Connect with Conner Prairie on Facebook at facebook.com/connerprairie, Flickr at flickr.com/people/connerprairie, YouTube at youtube.com/user/ConnerPrairie and Twitter at twitter.com/connerprairie.