NORWALK, Conn. – Jennifer Herring, president and CEO of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, announced Tuesday that she will retire after more than 10 years as CEO in 2014.
Herring has not set a final date for her retirement. She will most likely wait until the aquarium’s Board of Trustees finds a replacement. Until then, she will oversee the introduction of the aquarium’s animal-touch exhibit in January and the launch of its new research vessel in June.
“The last thing I want to become is a lame duck,” Herring said in a press release. “So I won’t be quacking anytime soon.”
Herring has led the Maritime Aquarium since 2004, and her 10-year tenure makes her the longest-serving CEO in the aquarium’s history. The aquarium is the biggest tourist attraction in Fairfield County and one of the top in the entire state.
Her achievements as CEO include raising more than $18 million for capital improvements to the aquarium, which helped set up the organization’s first-ever endowment. She also led the renovation and expansion of the aquarium, including adding the permanent exhibits “Go Fish,” “Frogs” and the touch-a-shark tank.
She also helped increase the aquarium’s educational outreach programs. The aquarium now has seven schools in its Whole Schools Partnerships program, which incorporates the aquarium into a school’s science curriculum. She also helped start the TeMPEST teen after-school program and public trips on the aquarium’s research vessel.
“Jennifer has led the organization to the achievement of major milestones, including educational prominence, complete physical refurbishment and accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquarium,” board of trustees chair Robert Rohn said in a press release. “She has guided it through a period of dynamic change, some very difficult economic times and raised the stature of the organization, making it a strong voice for the conservation of Long Island Sound.”
Herring’s retirement will mark the end of a 35-year career in the arts and public service. She was originally an opera singer in San Francisco before turning her attention to helping nonprofits. Before her time in Norwalk she had worked for the New York Public Library, the New York City Opera and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The Maritime Aquarium’s board of directors has already started a search committee to find Herring’s replacement. Board vice chairman Sanders Davies will lead the search.
“By this time next year, we will have a new leader and will be planning for an exciting new chapter in the organization’s achievement of its mission,” Rohn said.