Milwaukee Public Museum names Ellen Censky as president and CEO

Ellen Censky, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:14 pm

Ellen Censky, who has served as the Milwaukee Public Museum’s interim president and chief executive officer since September 2018, has been named to the position permanently.

She will be the first female to serve in that role in MPM’s 137-year history. Censky was formerly senior vice president and academic dean for MPM until taking on the interim president and CEO position, following Dennis Kois’ departure in August 2018.

Censky was selected from a nationwide search process that yielded 118 applicants, according to a news release.

“After an extensive national search that included speaking with qualified individuals from around the country and the world, we know we’ve identified the right leader to guide the Milwaukee Public Museum into the future,” said Susan Martin, chair of MPM’s search committee. “Ellen’s exceptional scientific achievements, her vision for and deep understanding of the Milwaukee Public Museum, and her commitment to this community make her the right person for the job.”

Censky takes the helm of MPM at a key time for the institution. The museum is in the process of identifying a site in Milwaukee’s downtown for its new home that will replace its aging 400,000-square-foot facility at 800 W. Wells St.

As interim president and CEO, Censky has helped advance the site selection process and engaged with stakeholders, donors and government leaders about the vision of the new museum, according to a news release.

“I am humbled by this opportunity to lead the Milwaukee Public Museum at such an integral point in the organization’s history and future,” Censky said. “Over the course of my career I’ve developed a vision of how natural history museums can and should continue to thrive as a critical part of local and global communities, and I’m thrilled to now have the opportunity to execute that vision in my home state of Wisconsin, finding new and innovative ways to share the wonder of science and world cultures with our visitors.”

A native of Cedarburg, Censky joined MPM’s staff in 1977. She went on to hold leadership roles at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where she developed its BioBlitz community outreach program. Censky later was director of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and director and CEO of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. She led both institutions through significant expansions and seven-figure capital campaigns, the news release said.

Censky returned to MPM in 2008 as its senior vice president and academic dean. In that role, she was responsible for building MPM’s research and curatorial departments and establishing academic partnerships with local institutions.

“Ellen is a proven leader and visionary,” said Tim Byrne, managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co., and chair of the MPM board of directors. “We could not be more impressed with her experience and are enthusiastic about moving MPM forward under the direction of the museum’s first female CEO.”

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