Smithsonian Promotes Bunch To Top Job

Lonnie G. Bunch III will become the first African-American to lead the Smithsonian and the first museum director to ascend to the position of General Secretary in 74 years.

Bunch is founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He will become the 14th General Secretary of the 173-year-old institution, effective June 16. The 11-member search committee conducted interviews in April and May, culminating with the full Board of Regents voting on a new secretary yesterday.

The 17-member Board of Regents formed the search committee this past December, led by Board Chair David Rubenstein and Board Vice Chair Steve Case, assisted by executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, to find a successor for Dr. David Skorton. A board-certified cardiologist, Skorton will become president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). He has served as secretary since June 2015, guiding the Smithsonian through its most successful fundraising campaign ever, totaling $1.8 billion. Skorton previously was president of Cornell University.

Bunch has spent more than 35 years in the museum field. When he started as director in 2005, he had one staff member, no collections, no funding and no site for the African American museum. Since opening in September 2016, the museum has welcomed about four million visitors and compiled a collection of 40,000 objects.

Bunch previously was president of the Chicago Historical Society where he led a capital campaign to celebrate its 150th anniversary and managed an institutional reorganization. His experience at the Smithsonian spans the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum.

Born and raised in Newark, N.J., Bunch received his master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C., where he’s also held teaching positions.

The Smithsonian reported total revenue of $1.456 billion, including $969 million in government grants, for the most recent fiscal year, ending June 2017. As secretary, Skorton earned total compensation of $848,349, including base compensation of $782,386, according to the organization’s tax Form 990.