National Czech & Slovak Museum’s Gail Naughton to retire from ‘job of a lifetime’

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Gail Naughton — photo courtesy of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library

“It’s been 15 years and when I leave it will be nearly 16, and that’s a long time.”

So says Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML), who has announced she will retire in June of 2018.

Naughton tenure has been not only long, but eventful. Imagine if her interview for the leadership position had included this job expectation: After the facility takes on a catastrophic amount of water in 2008, you will lead efforts to save the collection. You will also ensure that the facility is lifted up and moved to a new location and expanded.

Talk about other duties as assigned.

Steering the organization through the post-flood period will no doubt be remembered as Naughton’s greatest accomplishment, but she has other reasons to be proud.

“I think we have a level of stability as an organization that is important,” she says. And while the facility got lots of attention during and after the flood, she’s proud the organization has been able to expand its programming. “We’ve increased family and children’s programming dramatically,” she says. “We did this deliberately. We set out to be a family destination in Cedar Rapids … The education program has grown substantially as well. We built an endowment to help with that.”

Fundraising and programming will be top priorities for her eventual replacement, as well.

“Fundraising is always a challenge. Even though we’ve been building the endowment, there’s still the annual fund and money for new projects. You’re never in a place where you don’t need to do that,” she says.

Photo courtesy of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library

The new leader will also need to “keep the momentum going for the growth of programming and the way we serve the community.”

“Those are opportunities as much as they are challenges,” Naughton says.

Asked about her plans for retirement, Naughton laughs. She’s been getting that question a lot.

“I think I need to make a business plan for retirement,” she jokes.

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“I’ve never worked with retirement as a goal,” she says. “I love, love, love what I do, and I love the museum.” But she’s ready to invest her energy in other projects and in spending time with family and friends. She’s confident, given the organization’s strong staff and board of trustees, this is a good time for her to start the transition process.

“We can take on a change of leadership from a very strong position,” she says.

Naughton feels fortunate for all of her experiences during her time with NCSML.

“It’s been the job of a lifetime,” she says. “It’s given me opportunities I would have never had.”

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