Museum of Northern Arizona exterior

Museum of Northern Arizona President & CEO Dr. Robert Breunig Announces Retirement

(Flagstaff, Ariz.) August 26, 2014 – Dr. Robert Breunig has announced his retirement as president and chief executive officer of the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), effective June 30, 2015.

Breunig, who has been MNA Director since December 2003, said his decision to announce his retirement this summer was to ensure the Museum had sufficient time to identify his replacement and provide for an orderly transition of duties. He will assume the title of President Emeritus thereafter.

“After ten and a half rewarding years, the time has come to secure a new generation of leadership for the museum,” said Breunig. “I am confident the board will select an outstanding successor to lead MNA into the future. It was been an incredible joy to help move this distinguished institution forward.”

The MNA Board of Trustees has formed a search committee to immediately begin the succession process.  No timetable has been established.

“Dr. Breunig’s leadership and contribution over the past decade cannot be overstated,” said Kent Corbin, chairman of the MNA Board of Trustees. “He has positively changed the trajectory of this Museum. As one of the longest-serving directors, he has stabilized the Museum at a critically important time in its development. His vision will undoubtedly continue to guide and influence the future of this institution.

Breunig, 68, has had an impressive career with a number of museums and botanical gardens. He joined MNA as its first Director of Education in 1975, later serving in two curatorial positions.  From there, he moved to the Heard Museum in Phoenix as Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and then to Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden where he served as Executive Director for nine years. He left Arizona for a time, serving as Executive Director for California’s Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and, later, for The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

In 2004, Breunig returned to Arizona to lead MNA during a particularly challenging time. Under his leadership, MNA’s American Alliance of Museums accreditation was restored in 2008 after having been rescinded prior to his arrival in 2003. MNA eliminated $600,000 in bank debt and increased endowment funds from $4 million to $8.7 million. Other key achievements include: funding and construction of the award-winning Easton Collection Center, a LEED Platinum structure, and major renovations of buildings and grounds on the Harold S. Colton Research Center campus. The Danson Chair of Anthropology was funded and filled, a new curator was established in the biological sciences and the Geology Department reopened.

“Over the last decade, MNA has refocused its efforts on the core mission of the museum—studying, collecting, preserving and interpreting the natural and cultural history and art of the Colorado Plateau,” said Breunig. “We have greatly strengthened the care of our collections, restored key research positions and extended our public programs with an eye not only to the past but the future. During the remainder of my tenure, I hope to set even more substantial improvements to the museum in motion.”

In addition to major renovations just completed on the historic Museum Exhibit Building, two notable collections were recently received: the Robert and Cis Hawk collection of 512 contemporary Kachina dolls, and a collection from the estate of Phil M. Smith containing artwork by well-known Hopi artist Dan

Namingha and sons Arlo and Michael.  Breunig is responsible for stronger ties that have been formed between MNA and the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Hispanic community.

Nationally, Breunig was appointed by both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board (NMLSB), the governing board of the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. In 2012, he received the Individual Award at the 31st Annual Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards and in 2013 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Northern Arizona University. For the past six years, Breunig has served on the Arizona Commission on the Arts as a commissioner.

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Museum of Northern Arizona

The mission of the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) is to inspire a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through collecting, studying, interpreting and preserving the region’s natural and cultural heritage. Founded in 1928 by zoologist Dr. Harold S. Colton and artist Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, MNA was originally established as a repository for Native American artifacts and natural history specimens from the Colorado Plateau. Today, MNA offers more than 450 public programs annually, including exhibit and collection tours, a docent education program, the Discovery Program for children and teens, the adult education Ventures Program, a volunteer program, the Heritage Program art and cultural festivals, publications and a variety of lectures and forums. To learn more, visit or call 928.774.5213.