As the McLean County Museum of History prepares for major exhibit and technology changes that usher in a new era of teaching and promoting local history, the man who -- working with his mentor Barbara Dunbar -- transformed the McLean County Historical Society’s operations into a nationally accredited museum has announced his plans to retire.
Executive Director Greg Koos, 66, will finish his 39-year career with the Museum on March 31, 2016, well on the way to completing a three-year capital campaign that is expected to raise more than $3 million for Museum improvements.
Koos said, “Preparing the Museum for its 21st century transformation is now complete. It is time for the next generation to set new directions. The Museum staff and board are prepared and excited about the future. There could be no better time to turn over the reins.”
Koos has been with the Museum through four decades and two locations, starting as a part-time employee. He was hired full-time as archivist and site manager (1977-1987) at the Historical Society’s former home inside the McBarnes Memorial Building in Bloomington. In this role, he oversaw three major historic site development projects including the award-winning Miller/Davis Building (1844) which sits at the corner of Main and Front streets. By 1987 Koos was prepared to take over as executive director following Barbara Dunbar and he led the transition and move into the Museum’s current home inside the 1903 McLean County Courthouse. That re-utilization project was honored by the American Association for State and Local History in 1993. Koos also curated multiple exhibits on local history and, working with Jack Moody of the County of McLean, oversaw the restoration of the courthouse dome which won the Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Dreihaus Award in 2005.
Greg Koos 1989, presenting plans for the "new" location.
”I’m not finished with history,” Koos noted. “I will be writing a general history of McLean County. I intend on using our great collections which have been developed to tell the story of this place which continues to fascinate me.”
During Koos’s tenure the Museum’s capacity for developing new exhibits and delivering educational programs and events has nearly tripled. Board President Carolyn Yockey added, “Greg has devoted much time and effort to the Museum over his 39 years and we truly appreciate that. He is a walking encyclopedia of McLean County history; we are thrilled that he is writing a book to preserve what he knows.”
Whisman takes the reins April 1
The Museum’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday, Nov. 18 to promote Director of Development Beth Whisman to the executive director position. She will begin her new duties April 1, 2016.
“It has been delightful to work with Beth these past 2 ½ years; we look forward to her great leadership in the Museum and throughout the community,” Yockey said.
Whisman has been with the Museum since April of 2013 when she was hired to help implement the Museum’s Extending Excellence capital campaign and improve membership outreach and fundraising strategies. Before that time, she was a national award-winning news director and show host for WJBC in Bloomington.
“I knew I was taking on a major challenge when I left broadcasting for a job in the museum field. What I couldn’t know at the time was that I’d come to love this place and our amazing staff, volunteers, and donors,” Whisman said. “We have a clear strategy for the future thanks to Greg’s vision and leadership, and I’m humbled to be entrusted with such an important legacy.”
Koos plans to work side-by-side with Whisman during the transition, and he will remain as a consultant through September of 2016. The Museum and trustees plan to hold a celebration in Koos’s honor in 2016. Details will be announced at a later date.