Society diversity

Missouri Historical Society names Jody Sowell new president and CEO

Jody Sowell, who will be the company’s seventh president, has been with the organization for 16 years.

ST. LOUIS — A new leader has been chosen for the Missouri Historical Society (MHS), which operates the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, the MHS Library & Research Center and the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum downtown.

Jody Sowell, currently the executive director of public history for the Missouri Historical Society (MHS), has been named president and chief executive officer by its directors and commissioners of the history museum subdistrict, officials said in a press release on Thursday. Sowell, who will be the company’s seventh president, has been with the organization for 16 years.

Her appointment takes effect July 11, with the retirement of current MHS President and CEO Frances Levine, who announced last July that she planned to retire in mid-2022. Levine, who was the first woman to lead the MHS, took the job in 2014.

As president and CEO of MHS, Sowell will oversee the operations of its three facilities, a budget of approximately $20 million, an endowment of $100 million and more than 200 full-time and part-time employees. . The nonprofit organization is funded by private donations as well as taxes collected in the City of St. Louis and County of St. Louis through the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District.

“Jody and I have worked so well together, and I know he cares about the long-term health of the Missouri Historical Society — and its commitment to MHS, staff, and the community —,” Levine said Thursday in the communicated. “Jody is creative, articulate and enthusiastic. I learned my love of St. Louis from listening to Jody, and I know he will bring everything he has to the role.

Officials said Sowell had worked closely with Levine to develop MHS’s strategic plan for the 2020s, to include new main galleries; increased access to collections; new programs and tours; and increased efforts on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Sowell will also wrap up a capital campaign, currently in a quiet phase, that will be used to fund that plan, officials said.

“The Missouri Historical Society is at a pivotal time — in the early stages of a fundraising campaign and in the midst of multiple projects that will transform the way we share history — and it will cement our role as a national leader,” said Sowell in the press release. “We’ll introduce people to a St. Louis they’ve never met, and we’ll continually reinvent the way we do it.”

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Sowell holds a doctorate in philosophy in American studies from Saint Louis University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University.

In 2006 he joined MHS as an Oral Historian, then served as Director of Exhibitions and Research before taking up his most recent role as Managing Director of Public History in 2019.

Officials said that although Sowell served as director of exhibits and research, he was instrumental in the company’s decision to develop more in-house exhibits on local history rather than relying on traveling exhibits. . During its six-year tenure as curator of exhibits, the Missouri History Museum opened eight of the 10 most-visited exhibits in its more than century-long history, including “250 of 250,” “#1 in Civil Rights: The Fight for African American Freedom”. in St. Louis”, “The Louisiana Purchase” and “A Walk in 1875 St. Louis”.

Sowell oversaw the development of the Missouri History Museum’s first permanent children’s exhibit, the History Clubhouse, which in 2016 won an Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History. He also led the team that created MHS’ first feature-length documentary, “Show Me 66: Main Street Through Missouri,” which won a regional Emmy.

Sowell also teaches at Saint Louis University and Fontbonne University. He is a member of the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) and the American Alliance of Museums, and serves on the Community Advisory Board of KDHX-FM.

Prior to joining the Missouri Historical Society, Sowell had worked as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, an assistant professor at Mizzou’s School of Journalism, and editor of the Columbia Missourian.

Read the rest of the story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.