Milwaukee Public Museum’s development chief retiring in July

Karen Spahn

Karen Spahn, who has led the Milwaukee Public Museum’s fundraising efforts for nearly 14 years as its senior vice president of development, will retire next month.

Karen Spahn

Spahn joined MPM in 2005, taking over its development department when the museum was in the midst of a fiscal crisis that included a significant budget deficit and depleted endowment.

During her tenure, the development team brought in more than $70 million in gifts and had one of the institution’s best fundraising years in 2015, the museum said.

“Karen has been a wonderful asset to the museum,” said Dennis Kois, MPM president and chief executive officer. “She’s done an incredible job fundraising, and is an active member of Milwaukee’s philanthropic community and a trusted source of advice and perspective to non-profit leaders throughout Wisconsin. It’s been my privilege to work with Karen these past four years.”

Spahn previously was senior director of development at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the program/development officer at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

“It’s been an honor to have a career that not only am I proud of, but that I love,” Spahn said. “When I was in school, there wasn’t a degree in nonprofit management or leadership. I  worked hard, followed the path in front of me and have been lucky enough to really like coming into work everyday. While I’m retiring from the museum and am excited to start on a new path, I’m not going away. I will continue to care and give back to the community.”

Spahn said she plans to join the Wisconsin Humanities Council Board of Directors.

Julie Quinlan-Brame, who has been working on a contract basis with MPM since late 2017, will succeed Spahn as senior vice president of development in July. Quinlan-Brame has previously held development leadership positions with Alverno College and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Spahn’s retirement comes as the museum plans to build a new facility in downtown Milwaukee as it looks to move out of its longtime home at 800 W. Wells St. The cost of the project has not been disclosed, but Kois recently told a group of business leaders at a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce event that fundraising will be a “heavy lift.”

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