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Director's Chair

June 17, 2015
Office of the executive director, 2015.

Several years ago, I sat in the office of Executive Director Fred Heuser conversing about alternatives to elusive tenure-track academic positions for history PhDs. As the recipient of a PHS Research Fellowship, I was spending several weeks at the Society taking photos of thousands of documents related to my dissertation research on WWII Japanese-American incarceration camps. Judy Austin—a mutual friend, scholar, and former PHS Board member—had introduced me to Fred after she learned I’d be spending time in the Society research room.

Sitting in front of the director's desk, I noticed the stately fireplace on one side of the room and the oil portraits of famous Presbyterians painted by even-more famous artists. As Fred described his work I thought: what a great position, to work steps from fascinating historical documents, interact daily with skilled archivists and technology specialists, and promote awareness of the countless contributions Presbyterians have made to the development of this country and to world history.

Fast-forward three years. Today I sit on the other side of that desk--the side Fred sat on for so many years, and before him Bill Miller. The same works of art look down on me as I speak with colleagues, board members, supporters, and visitors. The armrests of my desk chair are rubbed raw. History is at work all around me. Talk about wish fulfillment! What would have seemed like a dream in 2012 is now a reality.

Coffee talk with Beth, 2015.

Three weeks into the position, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of all the job entails. My daily schedule is filled with strategic planning sessions, meetings with staff, discussions about the Society and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and travel to meetings around the country. As the newest occupant of the executive director's chair, I have embarked on an exhilarating and challenging journey to lead PHS into the future as we continue to fulfill our mission to "collect, preserve, and share the history of the American Presbyterian experience."

One thing I’ve already learned during coffee visits with my Society colleagues is that we are blessed with an amazing staff. Not only does it include whizzes with historical research, social media, technology, and the proper care of an historical archives, but also accomplished athletes, artists, students, proud parents, world travelers, and great humorists. Besides having the honor of leading one of the finest archives in the country, I have the distinct pleasure of working with these incredibly talented and knowledgeable individuals.

In the coming months and years I look forward to sharing more with you about the fine folks who work at PHS, our many supporters, and the other interesting things I'm sure to discover as executive director. Please stay tuned to our news and event notices, keep reading our digital and print missives, and let me know if there are any burning questions you’d like me or my colleagues to answer. It’s our pleasure to serve you.

Until next time, have a wonderful summer!

—Beth