The current president of Kenyon College and an esteemed biophysical chemist will make history of his own as the iconic institution’s first Black leader on April 3, 2023.
His appointment coincides with the much-anticipated arrival of the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a $431 million project set to open its doors on February 17, 2023. In addition to immersive exhibits, expanded classrooms and cutting edge architecture, the new building will create an entrance on Columbus Avenue (currently, the only access points to the museum are on Central Park West at 79th or 81st streets).
Given Decatur’s extensive background in science, the timing makes perfect sense. “I have spent my career committed to access and opportunity for students and also to an understanding of science,” Decatur told The New York Times. “This feels like a natural evolution.” After earning a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1995, he received a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from Stanford University. Since then, his résumé has been filled with a laundry list of impressive academic accomplishments — including a role as a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Based on his decade-long tenure at Kenyon, which commenced in 2013, he’s more than prepared to handle the AMNH’s approximately $186 million budget — per NYT, the Gambier, Ohio college’s budget rings in at $180 million, and he’s managed more than 600 people.
His mission to foster diversity and inclusion in the scientific space will remain at the forefront of his role. Yesterday, Decatur told Gothamist, “I think that the museum is really a place that can help to continue to move forward and change the broader public perception about who our scientists can be, and begin to overturn some of the longstanding stereotypes and images of who does science and who science is for.”
Clearly, Scott L. Bok, chair of AMNH’s board of trustees, agrees. In a statement, Bok noted, “He brings to the museum the expertise in scientific research, passion for teaching and learning, and deep commitment to outreach and diversity that are central to the museum’s mission. His thoughtful leadership will benefit the museum, the city of New York and the entire museum community.”
Decatur will succeed Ellen V. Futter, a history-maker in her own right, who has served as the first female AMNH president since 1993.