As Ellen Futter leaves the American Museum of Natural History today, after 30 years as the institution’s president, she leaves behind a very significant part of New York transformed, and she deserves everyone’s gratitude and appreciation.
On the north side of the group of interconnected buildings that many kids and adults in the city call the “dinosaur museum” is the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which replaced the old Hayden Planetarium in 2000 (which includes a new Hayden Planetarium).
On the west side is the soon-to-open Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation. The ribbon cutting was scheduled to take place last month, but the date was pushed back a bit and we hope Futter is back for the party.
On the south side, the original 1870s building facing 77th Street is the least changed.
On the east side, along Central Park West, there is a notable difference, not a new entrance, but the absence of the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt that greeted visitors for more than 80 years until it was removed last year. and packed into the wilds of North Dakota; a rare Futter mistake.
During his long tenure, while building new wings and exhibits and restoring old favorites, Futter tripled the museum’s endowment. And his financial achievements were surpassed on the academic side, as he instituted a Ph.D. program in comparative biology, the only museum in the US that awards a Ph.D. That was supplemented by a master’s program in teaching earth sciences, a perfect place where generations of children from New York and beyond come to learn on field trips.
While Futter didn’t star in the 2006 movie, “Night at the Museum,” her museum did, and she set up veritable sleepovers, under the whale, of course. And during COVID, that same whale looked down as more than 85,000 COVID vaccines were administered. A job well done, ma’am.
Kenyon College president, chemist Sean Decatur, takes office on April 3. Welcome to New York, sir.