Breunig announces retirement from Museum of Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Dr. Robert Breunig announced he will retire as president and chief executive officer of the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), effective June 30, 2015.

Breunig, who has been MNA Director since December 2003, said his decision to announce his retirement this summer was to ensure the museum had enough time to find his replacement and provide for an orderly transition of duties. He will assume the title of president emeritus.

"After ten and a half rewarding years, the time has come to secure a new generation of leadership for the museum," Breunig said. "I am confident the board will select an outstanding successor to lead MNA into the future. It was been an incredible joy to help move this distinguished institution forward."

The MNA Board of Trustees put together a search committee to immediately begin the succession process. No timetable has been announced.

Kent Corbin, chairman of the MNA Board of Trustees, said Breunig's leadership and contribution over the past decade can not be overstated.

"He has positively changed the trajectory of this museum," Corbin said. "As one of the longest-serving directors, he has stabilized the museum at a critically important time in its development. His vision will undoubtedly continue to guide and influence the future of this institution.

Breunig, 68, has had an impressive career with a number of museums and botanical gardens. He joined MNA as its first director of education in 1975, later serving in two curatorial positions. From there, he moved to the Heard Museum in Phoenix as Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and then to Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden where he served as Executive Director for nine years. He left Arizona for a time, serving as executive director for California's Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and, later, for The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

In 2004, Breunig returned to Arizona to lead MNA during a particularly challenging time. Under his leadership, MNA's American Alliance of Museums accreditation was restored in 2008 after having been rescinded prior to his arrival in 2003. MNA eliminated $600,000 in bank debt and increased endowment funds from $4 million to $8.7 million.

Other key achievements include the funding and construction of the award-winning Easton Collection Center, a LEED Platinum building designation, and major renovations of buildings and grounds on the Harold S. Colton Research Center campus. The Danson Chair of Anthropology was funded and filled, a new curator was established in the biological sciences and the Geology Department reopened.

"Over the last decade, MNA has refocused its efforts on the core mission of the museum-studying, collecting, preserving and interpreting the natural and cultural history and art of the Colorado Plateau," Breunig said. "We have greatly strengthened the care of our collections, restored key research positions and extended our public programs with an eye not only to the past but the future. During the remainder of my tenure, I hope to set even more substantial improvements to the museum in motion."

The museum recently received two notable collections - the Robert and Cis Hawk collection of 512 contemporary Kachina dolls, and a collection from the estate of Phil M. Smith containing artwork by well-known Hopi artist Dan Namingha and sons Arlo and Michael. Breunig is responsible for stronger ties between MNA and the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Hispanic community.

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