Please note that Strasenburgh Planetarium is closed for exciting technology upgrades. Click here to learn more about what you can look forward to.

September 27, 2018

Rochester Museum & Science Center names new President and CEO

Rochester native Hillary Olson joins Museum after international search

ROCHESTER, NY— The Board of Trustees of the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) is excited to announce that, after an international search, Hillary Olson will join the Museum as President and CEO. Olson, an Ogden native and graduate of Brockport High School, joins RMSC with more than 24 years of experience working at science museums and informal learning institutions across the United States.

When Hillary Olson was 11 years old, her elementary school class took a field trip to the Strasenburgh Planetarium. That trip changed her life. While her classmates had a fine time on the trip, it stuck with Olson in a larger way—she couldn’t stop thinking about the size and scale of the solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the universe. In fact, Olson says, “It was an obsession. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I earned a degree in Space Sciences and I still don’t fully grasp the scale of our universe, but I’ve spent each day since that field trip thinking about it.” Olson is now being tapped to engage RMSC’s next generation of explorers, innovators, and lifelong learners.

Olson comes to RMSC from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she served as Vice President of Audience and Community Engagement at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), a natural and cultural history museum that includes the largest planetarium in Wisconsin. At MPM, Olson was responsible for all aspects of the public face of the museum, including Education, Marketing, Communications, Planetarium and Theater Operations, Visitor Services, Events, Design, Earned Income, and Business Operations.

“On behalf of the RMSC Board of Trustees, I am pleased to welcome Hillary Olson as our new President and CEO. Hillary brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record in leadership, strategic action, and program development that will benefit the RMSC as it looks to the future,” said Tom Mitchell, Chair, RMSC Board of Trustees. “When we embarked on this search, we identified the ability to leverage the institution’s many assets to promote audience development and revenue growth, and the ability to create and sustain community partnerships as essential leadership skills for this role. We are confident we have found that person in Hillary.”

Prior to joining MPM, Olson held leadership positions at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Long Island Children’s Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Griffith Observatory. She holds a B.S. in Earth and Space Sciences from Stony Brook University, an M.S.Ed. in Museum Leadership from Bank Street College in Manhattan, and was a 2016 Fellow at the Getty Leadership Institute, an intensive management program for museum executives. Olson also worked as an adjunct instructor for the Museum Studies graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Olson has led the operations of three major planetariums, and looks forward to the re-opening of the digitally updated Strasenburgh Planetarium later this year.

“Connecting museum and nature center visitors of all ages to the wonders of exploration in science, natural history, and our shared cultural background is my passion,” Olson said.  “Everyone has something to learn at RMSC, the Strasenburgh Planetarium, and the Cumming Nature Center. I’m excited to be coming back home, and to make a difference in the place that first inspired me.”

Olson takes the leadership reins from Kate Bennett, RMSC President and CEO for 22 years. “I extend a warm welcome to Hillary and her family,” said Bennett. “I congratulate the Trustee search committee on their thorough work that has resulted in identifying a great new leader for this institution, at a time when the entire RMSC team is poised for the next exciting phase of service to the community. I am pleased to join with the Trustees, staff, and volunteers in welcoming Hillary back to Rochester, indeed to our region, and working together with our civic-oriented colleagues in government, arts and culture, industry, and universities to lead the RMSC into the future.”

Of Bennett, Olson said, “I am humbled and honored to take the helm from such an impactful, dynamic, and beloved leader. For the past two decades, Kate has guided RMSC to the vital role it holds today as a resource for STEM education and lifelong learning for the entire region. I look forward to continuing that work and finding new opportunities to make RMSC accessible to the communities it serves.”

Olson and Bennett will continue to work together in the coming months, as Bennett will take on a new role, working on special fundraising projects for RMSC. Olson will begin at RMSC in November.

RMSC’s search committee retained m/Oppenheim Executive Search to conduct search throughout the United States and Canada for the institution’s President and CEO. Finalists visited Rochester in September to meet with RMSC trustees and staff, as well as community partners. Chaired by Mitchell, the search committee consisted of active and honorary trustees.

To schedule a phone interview, contact Mare Millow, Marketing Communications Manager, RMSC, 585.697.1944, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For high-resolution images and additional information, contact Mare Millow, Marketing Communications Manager, RMSC, 585.697.1944, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit RMSC.org/press-news.

Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) includes the Science Museum, Strasenburgh Planetarium and Cumming Nature Center. Offering experiences at the Museum with more than 200 interactive exhibits, Planetarium with a 65-foot dome and Nature Center on 900 acres, the RMSC stimulates community interest in exploration. In addition, the more than 1.2 million RMSC collection items tell the story of Rochester’s past and present, including its rich history of innovation and invention. RMSC receives major funding from Monroe County, where it is one of the top three most visited attractions serving children and families. For more information about RMSC, visit RMSC.org. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.


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