Field Museum's John McCarter to retire as CEO

The longtime President and CEO will step down in 2012

September 13, 2011

Lynette Kalsnes and Associated Press

T-Rex Sue, as seem in the main rotunda of the Field Museum, was a signature acquisition of McCarter's tenure.
Chicago's Field Museum is considered one of the nation's foremost natural history musuems and research institutions.

Chicago's Field Museum has hired an executive search firm to help find a replacement for John McCarter, who plans to retire as the institution's president next year.

McCarter, who became Field Museum president and CEO in 1996, announced his retirement Monday.

“It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to serve as president of such a dynamic institution," McCarter said in a press release. "I have great confidence that well into the future The Field Museum will continue its leadership in environmental conservation, evolutionary biology, paleontology, and anthropology and will continue to be a driving force in the city’s cultural community."

During his tenure, McCarter led the team that bought Sue, the most complete and biggest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found, for more than $8 million. He also brought blockbuster exhibits on King Tutankhamun and Jacqueline Kennedy's clothes.

He oversaw two capital campaigns that raised more than $250 million, led efforts to conserve 45-thousand square miles of forests in the Amazon, and helped establish the Encyclopedia of Life, a public website launched by the Field and other institutions to gather information on all living things on Earth.

"Filling John’s shoes will be a daunting task, and we are grateful that he has provided us with the time to facilitate a transitional process and more importantly, we are grateful that he has set the bar so high," said John Canning, chairman of the museum's board of trustees.

But McCarter also had to deal with the weak economy, which hit the endowment and forced the museum to reduce staff.

McCarter previously was senior vice president at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and was the state budget director under Governor Richard Ogilvie. He's served on numerous boards, including current seats on the boards of Argonne National Laboratory and the Smithsonian Institution.

Although the Field is best known as a museum, the institution employs about 75 PhDs and conducts research on every continent. It also holds about 25 million specimens and artifacts in its collection.

CORRECTION: The AP had erroneously reported the Field Museum collection contains 25 million species. This story has been updated to report the collection, in fact, contains 25 million specimens and artifacts.