New Leader Built Highly Regarded Career in Research and Museum Leadership
RALEIGH — Dr. Emlyn Koster was named today as the new director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, bringing a distinguished record of research, publications and museum leadership, both in the United States and around the world.
”I am thrilled to join such a remarkable research and educational resource,” said Koster. “Science museums of all types are aspiring to be more relevant to the needs and opportunities of society and the environment, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences — in all of its onsite, offsite and online dimensions — is a benchmark of major progress. I warmly thank both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Friends of the Museum for this honor.”
Koster’s appointment caps a six-month search for a new leader for the Museum, which has pioneered new ways to engage the public in science. The Museum opened its new wing, the Nature Research Center, in April 2012 with the SECU Daily Planet multimedia theater and laboratories where visitors can converse with scientists conducting research or complete their own experiments, such as extracting biofuel from algae. Former Director Betsy Bennett, whose vision helped drive the Museum for 22 years, retired at the end of December, after a year that saw more than 1 million visitors pass through the doors.
“Emlyn brings to this role the precise mix of leadership qualities we need,” said Mike Murphy, President of the Friends of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and chair of the search committee. “He has a passion for natural sciences, for STEM education and for the people of North Carolina. He is an engaging advocate for the Museum to the public and a collaborative manager who can unite the staff, stakeholders and supporters in order to guide this world-class museum in expanding its reach and taking its mission to new heights.”
Koster is a geologist educated in England and Canada who has already been at the helm of several premier museums in the United States and Canada, leading landmark expansions of their facilities, exhibitions, programming, and outreach.
Koster officially starts on Jan. 28. Secretary John E. Skvarla III, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, presided over Monday’s announcement and said Koster’s appointment marks a new step in the Museum’s mission to engage society in the natural world, in scientific research and how it relates to our lives — past, present and going forward.
“We have built a world class museum in North Carolina. This is where we inspire the innovators and creative thinkers of tomorrow,” Skvarla said. “Today we turn over the helm to new leadership, and we know our Museum is in good hands.”
Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), praised the appointment. “The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the outstanding institutions of scientific learning in America, and Emlyn Koster is a leader destined to expand its impact even more,” Bell said. “I have known Emlyn for many years, and he will undoubtedly build on the Museum's past achievements, maximizing its public engagement through its exciting new Nature Research Center and educational programs.”
“Emlyn Koster is an inspired choice to lead the Museum into the future,” said Anthony (Bud) Rock, CEO of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). “He has an exemplary record of achievement in the science museum community, and we are extremely grateful for his record of distinguished service to our field. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a superb institution, and Emlyn's skilled leadership will help ensure that the Museum continues its proud tradition of commitment to the community, the state, and the field at large.”
Koster previously served for 15 years as CEO of Liberty Science Center, in New Jersey, where he turned financial struggles into a $109 million expansion and renewal, including a national-model contract with state government to assist at-risk communities across the state. Prior to that post, he was CEO of the Ontario Science Centre, Canada’s largest science center. He stabilized the institution, attracted major science events with prestigious partners and integrated Ontario’s first IMAX dome theater in a $15 million renovation.
Earlier, he held the post of director of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, in Alberta, launching it and opening a satellite field station in UNESCO-designated Dinosaur Provincial Park as well as integrating this new institution into the heritage tourism and scientific research professions.
Koster has also taught at universities and held a wide variety of board roles in the museum and related fields. He is a graduate of the University of Sheffield, England, and holds a PhD in geology from the University of Ottawa. He was born in Egypt where his father, a Royal Air Force squadron leader, was based in the Suez Canal Zone.