As the chairman of The Colonial Williamsburg Board of Trustees, transparency is extremely important to me. So when we notified the community of Mitchell Reiss’ pending departure, I promised regular updates about the search for a new President and CEO to lead the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
In this post, I am pleased to share the Board of Trustees' specifications for the next President and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg. Here they are:
Williamsburg was the thriving capital of Virginia when the dream of American independence was taking shape and the colony was a rich and powerful land stretching west to the Mississippi River and north to the Great Lakes. From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political, cultural, and educational center of what was then the largest, most populous and most influential of the American colonies. It was here that the fundamental concepts of our republic—responsible leadership, a sense of public service, self-government, and individual liberty—were nurtured under patriots such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Peyton Randolph. It was also here that African Americans, Native Americans, and ordinary men and women strugged to survive against the backdrop of revolution.
Founded in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a private, not-for-profit educational, historic, and cultural institution that receives no regular state or federal funding. It owns and operates one of the largest and best-known museum complexes in the world. The Foundation’s mission is to “feed the human spirit by sharing America’s enduring story” through preserving and restoring 18th century Williamsburg, Virginia’s colonial capital, and by engaging, informing, and inspiring people to learn about this historic capital, the events that occurred there, and the diverse peoples who helped shape a new nation. Today, it is the largest living history museum in the U.S., with annual paid visitation of more than 550,000 people (over 30 percent of whom are 12 or under).
The centerpiece of Colonial Williamsburg is the Historic Area—the 301-acre restored colonial capital with 88 original buildings and 525 buildings reconstructed to how they appeared in the 18th century through extensive archaeological, architectural, and documentary research. The Historic Area is staffed by highly trained costumed “intepreters” and expert tradespeople who bring the 18th century to life.
The Foundation also owns and operates two world-class museums, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum (known jointly as the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg) The Museums are presently undergoing a $42 million, donor-funded expansion and upgrade to add exhibition spaces as well as a new entrance, shop, and café. The expanded Museums are scheduled to open in 2020.
Colonial Williamsburg actively supports history education by engaging in a wide variety of educational outreach programs and activities. Teacher-led visits to Colonial Williamsburg take students back in time nearly 250 years. Initiatives include teacher training programs (both on- and off-site) and summer teacher training programs through the donor-funded Teacher Institute. As of 2019, the Institute has trained 10,000 teachers to inspire their students to learn about the history of our nation’s founding.
In addition to its educational initiatives, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has created the Bruton Heights School Education Center, a 30-acre research facility within walking distance of the Historic Area. This center serves as the corporate headquarters for the Foundation and houses Colonial Williamsburg’s research and publications departments, Costume Design Center, state-of-the-art conservation laboratories, and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library.
Through a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary, Colonial Williamsburg offers 826 guest rooms and suites in four distinct hotels—the Williamsburg Inn, the Williamsburg Lodge, the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, and the Griffin Hotel—along with 26 Colonial Houses located in the Historic Area. A 30,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, 45 holes of golf, tennis, and other recreational facilities are also offered. In addition, Colonial Williamsburg operates four historic dining taverns (King’s Arms, Chowning’s, Christiana Campbell’s, and Shields) and seven hotel restaurants. Colonial Williamsburg also owns Merchants Square, a popular outdoor shopping area with more than 40 restaurants and retail shops, adjacent to the Historic Area and the College of William & Mary.
Colonial Williamsburg is accredited by the American Association of Museums, governed by a 23-member Board of Trustees, and staffed by 1,928 full and part-time employees and 850 volunteers. Colonial Williamsburg’s 2018 revenue was $199 million with total assets of $1.1 billion. Annual revenues derive from an endowment fund totaling nearly $650 million and from admission ticket sales, product sales, hotel and restaurant revenues, charitable gifts and grants, and disposition of real property. In 2018, the Foundation raised almost $45 million through gifts and grants to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund.
In June 2019, President and CEO Mitchell Reiss announced that he would step down after five years in the role. Under Dr. Reiss’ leadership, Colonial Williamsburg addressed pressing institutional challenges, taking positive steps to address cost and revenue issues while rededicating the institution to its core mission of education and preservation. Colonial Williamsburg embarks on the next phase of its storied history on firm financial footing able to continue as an unmatched cultural and historical resource for the nation and the world.
For the position of President and Chief Executive Officer, Colonial Williamsburg seeks a visionary leader energized by the opportunity of leading a world-class institution of cultural and historical importance at a pivotal moment in its history—a leader able to build on current momentum and unparalleled strengths to lead the Foundation to ever-higher levels of achievement and impact.
Board of Trustees
Senior Vice President, Hospitality
Senior Vice President, Core Operations
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Human Resources Officer
Chief Development Officer
Other Key Relationships
Community and state leaders
The next President and CEO will work with the Colonial Williamsburg community to assess the current state of the institution and set strategic priorities for future initiatives. The President and CEO will encourage all stakeholders to explore new approaches and innovations, building on Colonial Williamsburg’s strengths to further advance its operational excellence, cultural significance, and institutional impact. In addition, the next President and CEO will work closely with supporters to build resources and drive solicitation, cultivation, and stewardship in the pursuit of transformative philanthropic support.
Forward-Thinking Intellectual Leadership
Bring a sense of possibility, passion, discovery, and entrepreneurialism and the ability to enhance Colonial Williamsburg’s longstanding position as an eminent cultural and historical institution. Lead the development and execution of short- and long-term strategies while communicating those strategies to engaged internal and external stakeholders, including a committed, sophisticated Board.
As a visible, engaged leader, examine current practices and determine, in collaboration with other senior leaders and the Board, the best use of existing and anticipated resources. Enhance the value and attractiveness of Colonial Williamsburg while recognizing the longer term structure and positioning that will be required to sustain the Foundation. Work collaboratively with the Board, senior leaders, and staff to assess opportunities and challenges while being ever mindful of Colonial Williamsburg’s commitment to the public, scholars, and guests.
Pursue development activities, including campaign and annual fundraising and planned giving, and have enthusiasm for engaging broadly with internal and external supporters. Represent Colonial Williamsburg to a wide range of audiences and serve as a vigorous advocate for the Foundation while articulating the value of American history to the public. Given the importance of Colonial Williamsburg’s relationship with local, regional, and state entities, enthusiasm for being a visible and active collaborator with community-based groups and their representatives is critical.
Colonial Williamsburg is being assisted in this process by Spencer Stuart. To confidentially submit comments, questions, nominations, or expressions of interest, please send an e-mail with any supporting materials to [email protected]