Chester County Historical Society Announces New President

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The Chester County Historical Society has appointed Elizabeth M. Laurent to be its new president, effective July 25, 2016.  After a national search, her selection was unanimously approved by the board of Trustees in June, said Chairman George C. Zumbano, Esq. 

“We are delighted to have selected from a national field of candidates a history-museum leader with exceptional professional experience,” Zumbano said. “Elizabeth has completed significant projects at Girard College and has wonderful credentials. She will oversee a complete new installation of our galleries opening in 2017, and with public programming to further expand our audiences.” 

Laurent has been director of historic resources at Girard College in Philadelphia since 2008, previously serving as associate director since 2000, and originally as consulting curator of the Stephen Girard Collection.  During her tenure, she reinterpreted and updated the school’s museum, making it relevant to new generations of students, as well as visiting scholars and tourists. 

“Her successful work at Girard with next-generation and diverse audiences is rare in the history field, and will make her an exceptional person to implement the Chester County Historical Society’s strategic plan,” Zumbano said. “She also has a track record of attracting financial support through grants and gifts to her projects.” 

The recent restoration of the monumental Founder’s Hall north and south doors won a 2016 Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia Grand Jury Achievement Award.  Laurent’s other major preservation achievements include grants and gifts to replace the massive Founder’s Hall roof in 2007, and restore eighteen of the building’s forty large windows. 

“I am honored to lead the Chester County Historical Society, one of the flagship county museums in the nation,” Laurent said.  “I look forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers, members, and the broader community and to becoming a part of West Chester and the Chester County community.” 

“Although I have enjoyed my time at Girard, when I was recruited for this position, I could not resist.  I feel well aligned with the society’s goals and plans. It is a much beloved museum. This is an exciting time, as we create new programming for the gallery, which is to be reinstalled next year.” 

Laurent received a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in early American culture at the University of Delaware. She holds a BA in history and art history from Williams College, Williamstown, MA, where she graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa.  She served as a trustee of the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, where she chaired the collections committee, and has served on advisory committees in Virginia and Philadelphia.  She co-chaired a highly successful recent outreach effort to the Society of Winterthur Fellows alumni group. 

A native of Alexandria, VA, Laurent and her husband, Lawrence Dame, live in Merion Station.  Their children, Rebecca and Edward, are students at Millersville University and Gettysburg College. 

Laurent succeeds Rob Lukens, who was CCHS president from 2011 until his death in August 2015, following a long illness.  David B. Reinfeld, vice president for development, has been serving as interim president. 

The search committee was chaired by Charles H. White and included 11 other trustees and stakeholders: Trustees Zumbano, Grete Greenacre, Dr. Mian Jan, Thomas McIntyre, William B. Parker, Charles C. Piola, James C. Sargent, Jr., L. Gordon Walker, George C. Werner, and former trustee Jim Duff and advisor Stuart Brooks. 

For the nationwide search, it retained Marilyn Hoffman, of Museum Search & Reference, an executive search firm in Manchester, NH, and Boston, MA.