Metropolitan Museum of Art President Set to Retire Next Year

Emily Kernan Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Engelhard, Nov. 2010. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Emily Kernan Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Engelhard, Nov. 2010. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


After 39 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Emily Kernan Rafferty, the first woman appointed president is ready to retire.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. © Evan Lee

NEW YORK— After 10 years as President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Emily Kernan Rafferty announced Tuesday that she was stepping down. The first woman to hold this position at the largest U.S art institution, Ms. Rafferty will retire in the spring of 2015, after four decades at the institution. 2015 will mark Ms. Rafferty’s 39th year at the Met and the 11th year of her tenure as President.

Speaking on her retirement, Ms. Rafferty said “It has been a singular privilege to work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” adding that “My respect and affection for the institution and for my colleagues is profound, and the Met will always be close to my heart.”

As the Museum’s chief administrative officer, Ms. Rafferty oversees many aspect of the museum’s operations. She manages some 1,500 full and part-time employees in the areas of finance, legal affairs and development. Ms. Rafferty who also serves as an ex officio member of the Museum’s Board, oversees membership, visitor services, technology, communications and marketing, construction and facilities management, merchandising, human resources, security, and government relations at the federal, state, and city levels. She has also been instrumental in growing the museum attendance from 4.5 million to almost 7 million visitors a year.

In her tenure as president, Ms. Rafferty has taken the museum through financial and sustained growth. An example of that growth is the museum’s recent takeover of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Marcel Breuer building, which will  serve as additional exhibition space. The reconstruction of the Met’s wing for Modern and contemporary art and seven-day-a-week schedule, are part of her unrelenting effort to help the museum grow into the future.

As the Metropolitan Museum of Art embarks on new initiatives and effort to improve its standing in global art environment intensifies, Ms. Rafferty notes that Met needs a new leader that will bring fresh perspective to the museum’s enduring developments.   “Now that the Museum is ready to embark upon a series of new initiatives and a related long-term capital campaign, I believe it should have administrative leadership from someone who is prepared to assume those responsibilities for many years to come and carry them to fruition,” she said.

Ms. Rafferty, 65, is well-respected for her dedication and exceptional contribution at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Known for her warmth, charm, and good humor, Ms. Rafferty is celebrated by all for her professionalism and abiding friendships throughout the museum. Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan, praised Ms. Rafferty for her exceptional contributions. “The Met is known for the extraordinary dedication of its staff, but few people have had a greater impact on this Museum than she has.  Over nearly 40 years, Emily has grown with the Met, rising to its challenges through the decades.  Indeed, I am deeply indebted to her for the role she played in my own transition to Director.  We have worked together as partners over the past five years, and I remain grateful for the intelligence, generosity, and charisma she brings to every endeavor.”

Like many others who have worked with Ms. Rafferty during her four decades at the museum, Daniel J. Brodsky, Chairman of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, honors her immense contribution to the museum. He said: “Emily’s contribution has been tremendous, and in many ways unique. Her remarkable combination of skills, and the role she has played in the Met’s culture over nearly 40 years, cannot be replicated. Tom Campbell and I, the Trustees, and staff, are grateful for Emily’s devoted service to the Museum and very pleased that she will be with us through the initial transition period.”

Emily Kernan Rafferty, a winner of many awards and honors, joined The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1976 as an administrator in the Development department, and rose through the ranks, serving as Vice President for Development and Membership. She was the first woman to be appointed a Vice President in the Museum’s history. She later served as Senior Vice President for External Affairs.

Ms. Rafferty has also served since 2008 as Chairwoman of NYC & Company, the City’s official tourism and marketing agency, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. In 2011, she was named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and became Chairman in 2012.

The plan for Ms. Rafferty successor at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is in progress. Mr. Brodsky notes that working closely with Tom Campbell, “he will name and chair a committee of the Board of Trustees to recommend a succession plan that will lay the groundwork for the search for Ms. Rafferty’s successor.”

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