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King to play transitional role at state museum

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Gov. Mitch Daniels wants a new organizational chart at the Indiana State Museum, which has seen five different CEOs since 2000.

Thomas A. King, appointed today as the museum’s interim CEO, said he will begin tackling the reorganization first thing. He’ll also try to build up the museum’s fund-raising base, recruit board members, and ultimately, find his replacement.

King, the former president of the Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, was recruited out of semi-retirement, where he’s been consulting on fund raising and economic development.

King’s appointment was confirmed Thursday afternoon by the museum foundation’s board of directors. He expects to stay on the job about a year.

Board President Bill Browne said the museum’s governance structure, which has been tweaked in the past, continues to hinder its progress. The private foundation hires the CEO, who then oversees a staff that’s on the payroll of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The CEO also answers to a state-appointed board of museum trustees.

“It really has been the thing that’s caused all this change in leadership,” Browne said.

Browne said a task force will come up with a new governance blueprint by year-end.

The most recent museum CEO, Barry Dressel, was recruited from the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Michigan. He resigned abruptly in October after two years in the position.

King acknowledged that he doesn’t know anything about the museum business. Reading from the state museum’s mission statement at a press conference today, he said, “As a proud son of Indiana, I like the idea of being associated with something like that, especially at this stage in my life.”

King's appointment comes at a crucial time for museum operations. In February, the museum will open a 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 ended June 30, has fallen 21.5 percent since 2007. The marketing budget, meanwhile, was down 50 percent, to $205,000, over the same period.

King said state funding needs to remain proportionate to the foundation’s private fund-raising. “This is a partnership, and that’s part of the governance puzzle--making sure it stays a partnership,” he said.

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

"He's well-respected," said Dave Sternberg, a local fund-raising consultant. "He's a bright guy. He knows a lot of people. He's probably a great choice."

King also served as vice president of corporate affairs for IPALCO Enterprises Inc. in the early 1990s. He's past chairman of the board of directors of Goodwill Enterprises of Central Indiana  Inc. and of Big Brothers of Greater Indianapolis.

He is board chairman of The Indy Partnership and chairman-elect of the board of the Indiana Sports Corp.
 

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