Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Attractions and Indiana State Museum

Indiana State Museum to name interim CEO

January 7, 2010

Long plagued by a lack of stable leadership, the Indiana State Museum has landed local executive Thomas A. King as interim CEO.

The board of the museum's private foundation is expected to confirm King's appointment Thursday afternoon.

The museum has seen five CEOs come and go since 2000. The most recent, Barry Dressel, resigned abruptly in October after two years in the position.

Museum officials would not comment on King, but those who work with him in consulting and business development had already heard about the retired Eli Lilly and Co. executive's new job.

"He's well-respected. He's a bright guy. He knows a lot of people. He's probably a great choice," said Dave Sternberg, a fund-raising consultant who heard about King's appointment through professional circles.

King is the former president of the Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation. He retired in March of 2005 and started his own consulting firm, focused on philanthropy, economic development and marketing. He's also a former president of Walker Research and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

King's appointment comes at a crucial time for museum operations. In February, the museum will open an high-profile Abe Lincoln collection. In the long term, the museum needs to make up for declining state funding and boost attendance.

State funding for the museum, $5.96 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30, has fallen 21.5 percent since 2007. The marketing budget, meanwhile, is down 50 percent, to $205,000, over the same period.

The state museum has an odd organizational structure. Its CEO is hired by a foundation that supports the museum but oversees a staff that's employed by the Department of Natural Resources.

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