6th Newfields trustee resigns; 2 board members added

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Newfields 140
Three of Robert Indiana’s Numbers sculptures are grouped to signify 2023 as the 140th anniversary of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, 4000 Michigan Road . (IBJ photo/Dave Lindquist)

Jason Noyan, an executive director in J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Indianapolis office, resigned from the Newfields Board of Trustees, becoming the sixth member of the board to step down in the the weeks before and after the art museum and gardens announced on Nov. 10 the unexpected departure of its CEO.

Newfields confirmed Friday that Noyan resigned. Noyan declined to comment when contacted by the IBJ.

The board of trustees, the managing board that holds fiduciary responsibility related to Newfields, decreased in membership from 30 to 24 but two recent additions bring the present roster to 26 members.

The new board members added during this week’s monthly board meeting are:

  • Robert Scheele, a vice president at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management who has served on the Newfields board of governors since 2021. The board of governors is an associate board that functions as a pipeline for prospective board of trustees members.
  • Leon Jackson, CEO of Diversity in Leadership Program Inc., a talent attraction and retention initiative.

When Newfields announced the departure of CEO Colette Pierce Burnette, the not-for-profit institution offered no explanation for her exit. A spokesperson told the IBJ that Newfields adheres to a policy of not discussing the details of internal employment matters.

Burnette has offered no comment on her departure.

The CEO of Newfields reports to the board of trustees. Darrianne Christian has served as board chair since May 2021 and is the first Black woman to hold the position.

Burnette became the first Black top executive at Newfields following a race-related controversy involving her predecessor, Charles Venable. In February 2021, Newfields issued a job posting referencing the need to maintain “the museum’s traditional, core, white art audience” while attempting to attract guests from all backgrounds. Venable resigned after more than 85 Newfields employees and affiliates signed a letter calling for his ouster.

Burnette began her 15-month tenure at Newfields in August 2022.

The string of board member resignations began Oct. 9 with Otto Frenzel IV, who served as vice chair.

Since Frenzel’s resignation, board members Gary Hirschberg, Adrienne Sims, Sherron Rogers, Sean Huddleston and Noyan stepped down.

Similar to Noyan, former board members Frenzel, Hirschberg, Sims, Rogers have made no public comments about their resignations.

Huddleston, president of Martin University, told the IBJ that Burnette was “a great catalyst” for connecting with Indianapolis residents when the institution needed someone in that role.

A Martin spokesperson said Huddleston resigned from the board in response to Burnette’s exit.

“Given the current climate, her departure represents an unfortunate setback to the progress our community has made,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

When reporting Sims’ resignation from the board, The Indianapolis Recorder published what the newspaper described as a resignation email sent by Sims, IU Health’s chief human resources officer since 2022.

“As a seasoned HR executive, I believe in the importance of strong HR practices, collaborative decision-making and adherence to proper governance procedures for the well-being of the organization,” Sims wrote. “Recent leadership decisions were not made in an inclusive and consultative manner, which has been disheartening.”

On Dec. 4, four members of the Newfields board of governors resigned. GangGang co-founder Malina Simone Bacon, Visit Indy executive Chris Gahl, New City Development Partners CEO Isaac Bamgbose and Wormser Legal principal attorney Barry Wormser stepped down from the 22-member board that helps Newfields shape its exhibitions and events.

Noyan was a founding member of the board of governors, which was established in 2018. He became a member of the board of trustees in 2021. The Indiana University alum grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

Following Burnette’s departure, the Newfields board of trustees appointed Michael Kubacki, a former trustee and former chair of Lake City Bank, as interim president and CEO.

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17 thoughts on “6th Newfields trustee resigns; 2 board members added

  1. Release the report that the chairman of the board fired the CEO without authority to do so and now the entire board is in turmoil due to her actions….

    We all have heard it from multiple unrelated sources at this point

    1. JJ, making random unsupported claims on the internet hear makes you a conspiracy theorist or an agitator. Cite your “multiple unrelated sources” and what they *specfically* claim.

      Also, the Board of Trustees hired Dr. Burnette, and they have full legal authority to terminate her for any reason or no reason at all, unless it specifically violates her employment contract.

      If they broke her contract, she would be able to sue, and would likely do so, just to protect her reputation, if nothing else. Instead, she has steadfastly refused to comment, despite multiple attempts by local media to solicit a statement from her.

      So, (1) You have ZERO proof she was fired, and (2) Dr. Burnette does not wish to discuss the reasons for her departure. Respect her wishes, and stop spreading unsupported rumors about her exit.

    2. Chris – anyone at the IBJ could talk to the same people I know….

      When the chairman fires the CEO without the boards approval it’s a cluster that causes the board to fracture and leave…. And she got a sweet severance so why would she sue? She got mega paid

      They need to dump the board and start over from scratch

    3. Jim, the fact that you deflect instead of simply naming sources when you claim “the IBJ could talk to the same people I know”—conveniently without naming them, just makes you just sound kooky.

      Also, people with a legitimate claim of wrongful termination, often are reluctant to accept a severance because (1) They likely could get more if they file a lawsuit, especially if it moves to the deposition stage (and THEN accept a settlement) and (2) they do not get a chance to clear their name.

      Finally, no one can “dump” the Board, as the Board selects its own members. They have final authority.

    4. Oh Chrissy – it’s really not hard to find a single degree of separation from a group of 12 people if you do anything of value in this city.

      And if I was terminated and my severance was 5x my salary I’d say cool get me outta this cluster and run as fast as I could.

    5. Oh, Jamie, thank you for deflecting again and admitting you know *nothing* and have zero proof of what you claim. Again, name the names or pack it up.

      In any case, I have had enough of your crazy. Take an internet break and enjoy very Happy Holidays!

  2. Why do the “journalists” keep talking about this stupidity, other than it fits the preset agenda— food deserts! Racism!! Cops suck!
    “business journal” LOL.

    1. Wait – does Chuck not believe in food deserts? And how one of the major issues with driving capitalism forward is not having a healthy and fed working class?

      Someone might be a socialist in disguise here Chuck…

  3. Chris, I get that JJF statement without official sources can’t be confirmed, but I also get no one is going to name their source and you should understand that too. So without trying to shame anyone, his comments seem to likely mostly accurate as Indy is a small town in many ways and many of the players are known who resigned, and this situation is pretty much a public cluster at this point.

    Without trying to be holier than thou or trashing Newfields, etc., but it is very possible (& likely) that strong personalities and also less than fully transparent board operations led to a personnel move that now looks to not have followed HR best practices, and no organization likes or wants to fully expose all of their challenges publicly, even if they are a high profile local institution. People may be trying to save face which is also a natural instinct for those trying to clean things up. It’s still a great museum and pretty sure this will get resolved, life will move on Indy can go back to normal soon.

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