Press Releases

Donald E. Lassere Named President and CEO of Chicago History Museum

Feb 16 2021

Following a diligent search process and subsequent vote by the board of trustees, the Chicago History Museum today announced that Donald E. Lassere, President of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY will succeed Gary T. Johnson as Museum president. Johnson is retiring after more than 15 years as president at CHM.

The presidential search committee was led by Daniel S. Jaffee, CHM’s board chair. The committee included ten board members and was assisted by an external consulting firm. The search took many months and culminated in finalists’ participation in virtual town hall meetings with museum staff and a safe, in-person museum visit.

“Conducting our search during the COVID-19 pandemic certainly posed some challenges, as initial vetting and interviews were done virtually,” said Jaffee. “I am grateful for the time and passion each committee member dedicated to the process, and proud of the decision we made. Thanks to the incredible job that Gary Johnson and his team have done over the years, the museum was in the enviable position of being a very attractive landing spot for highly qualified candidates, and we are excited to welcome Donald Lassere to his new role.”

Born in Chicago, Lassere and his family moved several times during his youth before returning to the city, where he graduated from Percy Julian High School. Motivated by his love for history and experiences in nonprofits, cultural spaces and the private sector, Lassere plans to leverage his diverse background by honing CHM’s audiences and providing valuable experiences for all visitors.

“Chicago holds such importance in my life, and I am thrilled to return to my hometown to work with the dynamic team at the Chicago History Museum and lead with the mission to share Chicago stories at top of mind,” said Lassere. “I believe we have an incredible opportunity to be truth tellers at CHM, sharing both the beautiful and unpleasant sides of our history that have shaped Chicago as we know it. CHM’s collection holds countless stories that have yet to be told, and I am honored to lead the institution in providing our visitors an inspiring, fun and educational experience.”

Lassere joins CHM with notable experience across industries. He has been President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center and Museum (MAC) since 2012, providing leadership that enhanced the reputation of the center on a local, national and global basis. Before his work at MAC, Lassere served in numerous roles, including Senior Vice President for Scholarship America, where he led Scholarship Management Services, the nation’s largest administrator of education assistance programs. In addition, he implemented grassroots programs to serve students in almost 4,000 communities and provide financial aid opportunities. He is an adjunct professor of organizational behavior and leadership at University of Louisville’s MBA and Entrepreneurial MBA programs.

Lassere is active in several community organizations and committees. He is Board Chair of the Louisville Visitor and Convention Bureau, served as a member of the selection committee for the Grawemeyer Award in Education, and was a board member of the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation, among other organizations.

“I welcome Donald Lassere back to Chicago and am very excited about the new perspectives he will bring,” said Johnson. “I am grateful to the people of Chicago for the privilege of leading Chicago’s own museum for almost 16 years. With Donald Lassere as president, the best is yet to come.”

Gary Johnson will remain president of CHM while Lassere and his family relocate to Chicago. Lassere will begin at CHM on April 12.

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