President and CEO Henry Schulson Announces Retirement

President and CEO Henry Schulson Announces Retirement

Published On:
Mackenzie Steele

Creative Discovery Museum (CDM) President and CEO Henry Schulson will retire this fall after leading the Museum for 26 years. Schulson began his tenure in 1997, just two years after CDM opened its doors in downtown Chattanooga. He has led the Museum through many changes and substantial growth.

“It has been so exciting to see the growth and development of both the Museum and Chattanooga over the last 26years,” said Schulson. “When I arrived, Creative Discovery Museum was just beginning to establish roots in the community. I am proud to see how deeply those roots have grown over the years. The Museum has become a vital educational resource for schools and an institution loved and embraced by children and families throughout our community.”

Under Schulson’s direction, CDM:

  • Welcomed over five million visitors and served more than one million students through its school and outreach programs.
  • Received 10 national grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and helped secure a national leadership grant for Hamilton County School’s Museum Magnet program.
  • Partnered with the City of Chattanooga, Hunter Museum of American Art, and the Tennessee Aquarium on the 21st Century Waterfront Trust Plan, which transformed the Riverfront District and included the opening of CDM’s RiverPlay (2002) and Rooftop Fun Factory (2005).
  • Established an endowment program at the Museum currently valued at over$5 million.
  • Developed a partnership with Oak Ridge National Lab and the U.S. Department of Energy, making CDM a national hub for education programs on biofuels and alternative energy sources.
  • Introduced free Family Nights, Sensory Nights, and the first Museums for All program in Tennessee, providing thousands of families each year with free and discounted admission to the Museum.

“Henry has been an incredible leader and a gift to this institution and community for over 26 years. As a board, we are so appreciative of his constant stewardship, which continues even in announcing his well-earned retirement,” said Christie Kizer Burbank, CDM’s Board Chair.

Most recently, Schulson spearheaded the Ignite Discovery capital campaign, which raised over $12.5 million to renovate the almost 30-year-old Museum. Nearly all exhibit galleries in the Museum have been renovated and reopened over the last year, with the final gallery, UnEarthed, slated for completion by September. As a result of these renovations, CDM has been setting new attendance records each month.

The lasting impact Schulson has had on the Museum extends beyond statistical success and into the community. His many accomplishments and deep relationships built with staff, patrons, and community partners will define his legacy. He has helped position CDM to attract a world class successor who will guide CDM into the next stage of its evolution and expand on its role as a leader in experiential learning and early childhood education.

“I have valued the partnerships we have developed with the schools and organizations serving youth in the community,” said Schulson. “But above all, I have valued working with an outstanding staff who bring the joy of learning to children day after day.”

CDM is committed to continuing Schulson’s legacy as the search for his successor begins. A selection committee made up of current and former CDM board members is tasked with the important challenge of finding the right person to lead CDM, and they have chosen to partner with ThinkingAhead Executive Search, a Nashville-based firm, to lead the recruiting. ThinkingAhead has established itself as a leading boutique, nonprofit executive search firm. The company has been honored as one of Nashville’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, a Top 10 Executive Search Firm by Manage HR Magazine, and as a Top10 Executive Search Firm for Women of Color.

Kay Linder, a 25-year veteran of executive search, is serving as Partner-in-Charge of the project. “I am so thrilled and privileged to be working with CDM on this journey of finding Henry’s successor. He has built a legacy that is so significant, not only for the Chattanooga community but for all visiting families, educators, and the many users of their education programs. The selection committee is focused on finding the best leader for the next chapter of the museum,” said Linder.

“We have engaged with CDM’s staff and many stakeholders to help guide our search, and we are now focused on identifying exceptional candidates for this role. We are thankful to Henry for his dedication to CDM and the high standard he has set,” said Patrick Stowe, chair of the search committee and former CDM Board Chair. “It’s a great credit to Henry and our outstanding staff and partners. Given the health, reputation, and newness of CDM along with the enviable quality of life in Chattanooga, we believe this could be one of the most attractive children’s museum opportunities in the country, and we are optimistic about the potential talent we can attract.”

Find information about the job description and search process for CDM’s new president and CEO at ThinkingAhead’s website,