SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (June 1, 2023) – Marise McDermott has announced her plans to step aside from the position as President and CEO of the Witte Museum on December 31, 2023, concluding a tenure of 20 years in which she has galvanized community engagement and led a dramatic transformation and expansion of San Antonio’s Witte Museum. The Board of Trustees voted to name McDermott President Emeritus, starting in January 2024, where she will assist with the transition to new leadership and continue to work on projects tied to the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Witte Museum in 2026. A Succession Planning Committee has been assembled by the Witte Board of Trustees to oversee the process to select the next President and CEO.
“It has been my great privilege to serve the beloved Witte Museum,” noted McDermott. “Working with the great Witte team is a daily inspiration. Serving the vision and leadership of the Witte Board of Trustees has been exhilarating.”
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Marise for her visionary leadership and all she’s accomplished at the Witte Museum,” said Ryan Berg, Chair of the Witte Museum Board of Trustees. “Marise had a vision for what the Witte could become if it took a big leap forward, and the museum has seen tremendous growth during her tenure. Today’s Witte is a modern, inviting space where we all can gather and explore matters important to our future. Texans will benefit for many years to come from her advocacy on the Witte’s behalf, and we look forward to continuing to work with Marise in her role as President Emeritus.”
McDermott was named president and CEO of the Witte Museum in 2004 with the urgent priority to stabilize the museum’s finances and implement a business model to keep the doors open. Under her leadership, the budget was balanced within two years and lines were out the door as the community enthusiastically welcomed the Witte’s launch of a series of popular special exhibitions from around the country and world.
A new strategic and master plan for the Witte Museum was carefully developed in the early years of McDermott’s tenure with community input on what was needed from the Witte for the future. More than a decade of capital improvements followed as upgrades to the Witte campus served as a catalyst for the broader revitalization of the Broadway Corridor, a historic cultural center for the city and state. The museum campus first expanded north with the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center, which opened in 2012. The Mays Family Center opened in 2016 providing an important gathering space for the community, a home for larger touring exhibitions and critical funding for the museum operations.
The sounds of construction on the museum campus continued as visitors flocked to the museum to explore its new, refreshed galleries and special exhibitions. Brackenridge Parking Garage was built in 2009 and then expanded in 2018 to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the museum. The H-E-B Science Treehouse was re-invigorated and reopened in 2014, becoming the award-winning H-E-B Body Adventure and inspiring health awareness and empowerment in a generation of students. The main museum building was renovated and expanded to become the Susan Naylor Center, opened in 2017, with the Valero Great Hall, the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery, the McLean Family Texas Wild Gallery and the Kittie West Nelson Ferguson People of the Pecos Gallery, all with associated hands-on labs for school children and families.
Construction at the museum continues today, with the focus on the Witte Riverside Campus Development: the new Dawson Family Hall and John R. and Greli N. Less Charitable Trust Science & Nature Courtyard opened in May 2023.
McDermott built an outstanding professional museum team who galvanized an expanded role for the Witte outside the walls of the museum and established the museum as a state-wide institution with wide impact. In 2008, the museum opened the B. Naylor Morton Research and Collections Center on the southern end of its campus and an off-site collections repository, which became a state and federally certified repository housing more than 320,000 objects. In 2017, the Rock Art Foundation donated the White Shaman Preserve to the Witte Museum, catapulting the Witte to the global stage for cosmologically complex ancient rock art murals. In 2023, the Witte Museum launches Texas Museums 360, a digital and hands-on science education platform and curriculum for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in schools throughout Texas.
Marise McDermott has 30 years of experience in cultural arts, most recently as President and CEO of the Witte Museum, where Nature, Science and Culture meet, since 2004. McDermott led the $100 million campus expansion, with 174,000 square feet of change for New Witte. McDermott serves as Chair of the Accreditation Commission for the American Alliance of Museums and has given numerous presentations at museum conferences. McDermott was honored at the 2023 Texas Association of Museums with the Jack Nokes Lifetime Achievement Award. McDermott was a TriChair of the Alamo Advisory Committee, was founding Chair of Luminaria, was Chair of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, currently serves on the Midtown/Brackenridge TIRZ Board and served for more than a decade on the Visit San Antonio Board of Directors. McDermott was named 2013 Executive Woman of the Year by the San Antonio Greater Chamber of Commerce, was the 2015 Texas Patriot Award by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Alamo Mission Chapter, was named Texas State University Liberal Arts Alumni of the Year in 2016, where she earned her Masters in Fine Arts (1996), was named the 2017 Business Person of the Year by the San Antonio Business Journal and was a 2019 San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Constellation of Stars Awards Honoree.