Shedd Aquarium, Chicago’s most visited cultural attraction and a national leader in animal care, conservation education and marine research, proudly announced today that its Board of Trustees has elected Bridget C. Coughlin, PhD, as the organization’s new President & CEO. Coughlin succeeds current President & CEO Ted A. Beattie who, in April 2015, announced his intention to retire after 22 years of service. Coughlin will officially assume her new role in the spring of 2016.
“I’m incredibly honored to have the confidence of the Board to carry on Shedd’s long tradition of excellence. Great leaders such as Ted and the talented and dedicated team of staff and volunteers at Shedd have created a world-class aquarium. Very few organizations can say that they make a positive impact on their community, and on the sustainability of aquatic animals and the conservation of their diverse global ecosystems. It’s humbling to be asked to be part of this incredible organization,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin, 44, currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Programs and Adjunct Curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS), where she has worked since 2005. In that role, Coughlin is responsible for education, membership, fundraising, and strategic partnership activities for the 115-year-old institution, which saw 2 million visitors in 2015.
Coughlin has been nationally recognized for creating innovative programs that entertain, educate and enhance the guest experience. In 2009, Coughlin led the creation of the museum’s health exhibit, a recipient of the Association of Science-Technology Center’s 2010 Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience. She also established a National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics of Taste Lab, a community-based laboratory that gives museum guests the opportunity to participate in ongoing scientific research.
In addition to leading the museum’s programming and strategic partnerships, Coughlin led a number of fundraising campaigns, resulting in significant improvements to museum space, the construction of a new research and learning center, and the acquisition of rare exhibit collections.
Prior to DMNS, Coughlin spent five years in Washington D.C. working with the National Academy of Sciences, where she served as managing editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world's most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals.
In the summer of 2015, the Executive Committee of Shedd Aquarium’s Board of Trustees began a global search to identify and select Shedd’s next President & CEO, only the fourth in the aquarium’s 85-year history. The process was led by Past Board Chairman and Search Committee Chairman Tyrone C. Fahner, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees H. John Gilbertson Jr. With assistance from Korn Ferry, a leading national search firm, Shedd conducted a comprehensive and expansive search process over the course of six months to identify potential candidates.
“Bridget Coughlin has been at the forefront of developing new and engaging programs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for over a decade, and her passion for education extends well beyond that,” Fahner said. “Her accomplishments have established her as one of the brightest leaders of any education, research, and conservation organization today, and we are pleased she will be joining the Shedd as we enter the next generation in its history.”
“Dr. Coughlin will be a key part of our team locally and globally, working alongside our incredible staff on the ground as well as our scientists and biologists worldwide to thoughtfully grow our critical conservation, education and research efforts,” Gilbertson added.
Coughlin earned her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa, and her Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She also completed advanced coursework in Nonprofit Management at Kellogg School of Management, earning her Executive Scholar Certificate. Coughlin has led teams funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in conducting research projects on infectious disease. She also led a team at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory that completed a research project on genetics.
In 2010, Coughlin was named a Livingston Fellow of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, awarded to leaders in Colorado’s nonprofit community. She serves on the boards of Share Fair Nation, Clayton Early Learning, and Denver Public Schools Foundation, national and local efforts to provide access to quality education for all and increase the number of young girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Born in Colorado, Coughlin currently lives in Denver with her husband and their three sons. Coughlin and her family will relocate to Chicago for her newly appointed position at Shedd Aquarium.
VISUALS: A high resolution photo and professional biography of Bridget C. Coughlin, PhD is available for download.