Executive Director

San Francisco, California
Commensurate with experience
January 29 2019
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type
Other Corporate

The California Academy of Sciences seeks a dynamic, strategic, and collaborative leader who can be a passionate advocate for the institution’s mission, research, and collections for the position of Executive Director.

About the California Academy of Sciences

With a mission to “explore, explain, and sustain life,” the California Academy of Sciences – based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park – is a beacon for knowledge, inspiration and solutions, guiding the world toward a better future by providing both hope and critical information to an increasingly global audience. The Academy is focused on leveraging its public museum, its scientific discoveries, and its global education programs to inspire hundreds of millions of people to care for and sustain Earth’s natural wonders.

For more information about the Academy, please visit https://www.calacademy.org/.

The Role

In addition to providing oversight for the Academy’s $73M operating budget, 651 employees and 763 active volunteers, the Executive Director will work in close partnership with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to actively foster a collegial working environment internally that encourages cross-departmental and cross-functional collaboration in support of achieving strategic goals. The new Executive Director inherits a seasoned and skilled group of staff and will be asked to collaborate effectively with a range of teams representing the diverse offering of the Academy.

Reporting to and working with the Board of Trustees, the Executive Director has responsibility and is accountable for the strategic, programmatic, financial, and operational management of the Academy. This individual will build upon and evolve the Academy’s existing strategic priorities while also developing the financial and ideological support for their implementation. They will skillfully balance and align the needs of multiple, sometimes opposing, interests while providing a clear direction for the future. Along with articulating a clear vision for the Academy, this person will mobilize the Academy’s current key strategic areas of focus: Explore Life; Operate a World-Class Living Museum; Provide Global Education and Storytelling; and Be a Sustainability Leader.

The Executive Director will play a vital role in fundraising and will work closely with the Board and the development team to ensure the Academy’s ongoing – and increased – private and public financial support. They will demonstrate the ability to attract and persuade individuals and institutions to support the work of the Academy with the resources the organization needs to thrive. They will actively promote the Academy to advance the development of appropriate partnerships, locally and nationally, in support of its mission. This person will steward the longstanding relationship and funding between the Academy and the City and County of San Francisco. The Academy is mentioned several times in the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco, conferring broad rights for the Academy to control and operate its facility in Golden Gate Park. The annual effort for CAS to vie for City funding is directly tied to the energies on the incoming Executive Director. The Academy submits to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors an annual financial statement of its activities in connection with the operation of the buildings.

Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have significant and proven leadership and management experience, combined with a passion for and commitment to the Academy’s mission. The Executive Director will be a natural leader of impeccable character and integrity, who adheres to strongly held ethical values and principles. They will exude a sense of intellectual curiosity and global awareness while also being both willing and eager to share their knowledge and understanding with the staff, donors, and other supporters of the Academy. Ideally, the next Executive Director will have had previous experience developing and implementing strategic initiatives within a complex organization and will have earned a reputation for effectiveness in partnering with a Board. They will demonstrate success cultivating relationships with diverse constituencies and building public or private support for key initiatives.

In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we would highlight the following for this candidate:

  • Passion for the Mission and Scientific Credibility
  • Strategic Vision
  • Management of Teams, Resources, and Assets
  • Relationships and Influence
  • Resource Development
  • Interpersonal Acumen and Character

The California Academy of Sciences welcomes people of all backgrounds, identities, and beliefs to join us in achieving our mission to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth. We place diversity, equity, and inclusion at the heart of our recruiting efforts and strive to build a culture centered on mutual respect, equal treatment, and the opportunity to succeed.


Russell Reynolds Associates has been exclusively retained for this search and prospective candidates are invited to contact Russell Reynolds Associates directly. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential. To apply for the role or submit a nomination, please reach out to CalAcademy@russellreynolds.com. All applications should include a resume and statement of interest.