Thursday, June 26th, 2014
It has been a very exciting time at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation over the past six months and we are happy to report that our reorganization is complete and the future of the organization continues to be carefully shaped by the mission and vision from which it was founded. The following three statements by Founding Director, Sally Roesch Wagner, Board President, Holly Austin, Esq., and new Site Director and Girl Ambassador Program Director, Sarah Flick will give you a measure of the direction, dedication and passion involved in the future of Gage.
In the words of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center’s Founding Director, Sally Roesch Wagner, “I was well aware of the “founder syndrome” – the all-too-frequent case where the founder sticks around too long, the organization stagnates, and finally dies. I’m an innovator. I like to start things but not keep them going in the day-to-day operations. So I was ready to step down as the Executive Director last fall. Quite honestly, it wasn’t clear where the Foundation would go. It was at a crossroads.
I’d led us in the creation of a nationally-recognized, award-winning innovative historic house museum turned into a Center for Social Justice Dialogue. We were beginning to appear in museum books and journals and taught in museum studies classes. Would the Gage Foundation continue in the same direction or would they retrench into one more dusty museum? Rumors floated: The Onondaga Historical Association was taking over the Gage Center. Or it was closing its doors. In truth, neither of these were ever considered as options. The board of directors wisely hired Beth Leibrick, a savvy, thoughtful consultant and began a reorganization process. The result? More than I ever could have dreamed possible; a potential model for how a museum redefines itself after the founder steps down. With the direction of the consultant, the board has committed to moving forward with renewed energy with the innovative museum concept we began.
I stayed on as Director of our Girl Ambassador for Human Rights program until the end of the school year, and now I say with a grin on my face a mile wide, I turn it over to Sarah Flick, a brilliant young woman whom I’ve mentored over the past six months, and watched her brilliantly organize and innovate. The board took my advice and hired her as my successor, adding on the role of Site Manager. How many founders get to turn over the reins to someone they admire, someone with creative and enthusiastic energy well beyond their own? I feel blessed and grateful to the board who, under the dynamic leadership of President Holly Austin, will carry on the vision in new and innovative ways.
I’m not going away. I’ve agreed to continue as a consultant for a while, to ensure the institutional memory is preserved and assist Sarah with the Girl Ambassador program. Beyond that, I am pursuing with enthusiasm the vision of the late Joanne Silverstein, assistant research professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies and our first Local Advisory Committee chair, of making all of Gage’s writing available through an interactive, dialogue website, using the model we’ve created in the Gage Center. Partnering with the Gage Foundation every step of the way, the synergy of the Gage Center and Gage 2.0 will move ahead our shared dream of bringing Matilda to the attention of the world.
I thank you for your support and commitment – we’ve created something amazing together. And together we’ll now create even more.”
As Board President, Holly Austin, Esq., stated, “It is my pleasure to report that the Gage Foundation remains a vital and powerful place. In the two and a half years that I have been on the board, I have seen how people come to our museum and leave changed. They leave more thoughtful about social justice issues, and inspired by Matilda Joslyn Gage – the woman she was and the legacy she has left behind. The young women who participate in our Girl Ambassador Program will be leaders throughout their lives. They are amazing, living examples that the work of the Gage Foundation is so very important.
And working is exactly what we have been doing! It has been 6 months of intensive financial, succession, and strategic planning by the Gage Board and by Sally Roesch Wagner, with the help of an organizational consultant, Beth Leibrick. We are finally able to have Sally step back from running the Foundation as Executive Director and move to being Founding Director, so she can do other remarkable things with her time, which she has been asking the Board to plan for several years now. We have just hired Sarah Flick to be our new Site Director and Director of the Girl Ambassador Program. Sarah has been deeply involved in the Girl Ambassador program this past year, and brings amazing energy and excitement to the Gage Foundation.
It feels wonderful knowing that we have made significant strides to ensure the Foundation, the House, and our Programs will exist and thrive long into the future. Now all we need is your help. We invite you to come visit us, and bring friends. Become a member. Tell people about the Gage Foundation and invite them to visit.
Most importantly, your financial support will ensure we continue to be innovative and influential in educating current and future generations about Matilda Joslyn Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change.”
And finally, Sarah Flick, Gage’s new Site Director and Program Director is poised to lead the Gage Foundation into the future with the following comments, “I am excited for the opportunity to grow with the Gage Foundation during this dynamic time. Through my work with the Girl Ambassador Program, I have witnessed the inspirational power of Matilda Joslyn Gage’s legacy. Everyone who meets our Girl Ambassadors, from the social activists we met during our trip to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, to the many local professionals who donate their time and expertise, has come away impressed by the passion for and grasp of social issues each girl possesses. When these incredible young women join the program, they already have an enthusiasm for social justice. But it is the enduring power and cultural relevance of Gage’s ideas that bring them together, bind their collective knowledge, and inspire a dialogue that they will continue and share as they move through the world.
It is dialogue that sets the Gage Center apart. There is a vibrant international conversation growing about social justice. I can think of no better place to join that conversation than right here in Central New York: the cradle of the women’s rights movement. Through cross-generational dialogue and thought-provoking exhibits, we provide a gateway to those who seek real social change. As the foundation continues to grow, we seek to combine Matilda’s vision, Sally’s vision, and the evolving vision of our Girl Ambassadors.
As we move forward, I encourage you to rediscover what the Gage Foundation has to offer. I welcome you to come to the house; I would love to meet you. Schedule a tour for a group of your friends. Keep an eye on your inboxes for information on upcoming events and program information. Follow our new social media presence. And, of course, encourage your teenage daughters to apply for our Girl Ambassador Program this fall.
Remember, it is your intellectual and financial contributions that make everything we do possible. Please join us, contribute to the museum, and become a part of Matilda Joslyn Gage’s powerful and continuing legacy.
Thank you for your new and continued support of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. We look forward to continuing and building upon Sally Roesch Wagner’s award winning vision through 2020 and beyond.”
Thank you for your interest in the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, we appreciate your past support and your continued support as we move into this next exciting phase as an organization.
Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.
Holly K. Austin, Esq.
Sarah M. Flick
Site Director, Program Director