Friday, November 28, 2014

Farewell, Janice – A Legacy of Play and Learning

Executive Director Janice O’Donnell – our fearless leader and “priestess of play” – leaves the Museum today, after 35 years of visionary leadership, unwavering passion and tireless commitment to children and families. 

Dear friends and colleagues:

For 35 years I have had the great privilege of working on behalf of children and families.  I have been so fortunate to do what I love and work toward causes I care passionately about.  The Children’s Museum is a large canvas with an encompassing mission: to inspire and celebrate learning through active play and exploration.  That has allowed us to adapt and change, to experiment, to introduce new ventures that meet the changing needs of families, and to go beyond our walls to ensure ours is truly a resource for all children.

I’m proud of the Museum’s expansion and the $3 million capital campaign that got us to Providence in 1997, and I take great satisfaction in the fact that the Museum is financially strong after so many years of struggle.  I’m proud of our Museum’s national reputation – that we’re seen as leaders in our field for our deep commitment to children and community – and that we are also known locally as collaborative and community-minded.  I love that we design and build our own exhibits using local talent and are creative and artful in our learning environments.  I’m proud that our team is so committed to high-quality learning experiences, so thoughtful in creating exhibits and programs.  And I’m proud that our team is willing to take risks, take on important issues – like our partnership with DCYF serving court-separated families and our play agenda engaging community in important discussion about children’s needs.

I’m especially proud of the Museum’s commitment to inclusion and community.  Ample free admission opportunities means that the fee is not a barrier to visiting the Museum.  All of the Museum’s labels and signage are bilingual (English and Spanish).  But it’s not enough to say Free and en Español!  A truly inclusive organization must reach out and go into communities where coming to a children’s museum is not necessarily top of mind.  That’s why we work closely with Head Start, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Y, community centers, schools, libraries, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Providence Parks and Recreation and other city departments – so that the Museum is an integral part of the community.

I’m grateful to our partners – that network of dedicated people who share our vision of a child-friendly community where the needs of families are paramount.  I’m grateful to our generous supporters who make our work possible.  And I am deeply grateful to the skilled, resourceful, talented, smart, committed Museum staff – past and present – for creating a community resource that’s so beloved by so many.

It has truly been an honor to steer the ship that is the Children's Museum for all these years, and to work toward making the world a better place for children and families.  I know I leave the Museum in strong, capable hands.
– Janice

Janice with her grandchildren Liv and Finn, who practically grew up at the Museum.

The Museum staff is profoundly grateful to Janice for guiding, inspiring, empowering and teaching us SO much over the years. We welcome you to comment and share your favorite Janice memories and stories, appreciations and best wishes!

Tributes and well wishes have arrived from near and far!


dave marchetti said...

I first met Janice in 1981 when I began caring for the museum's one large aquarium. Over the years I've watched the museum grow, move and grow some more. My ties to the museum have grown to include my Animal Experiences programs and I've seen many wonderful staff mmembers come and go over the years. But one constant has remained and I will miss seeing Janice's smile on my future visits to the museum. Good luck Janice and thank you.
Dave Marchetti

Mary Alice Matthews said...

I had the opportunity of meeting Janice in May 2008 while visiting my niece, Megan. Right off I was captivated by her adventurous nature. Her visionary spirit to look beyond a four wall structure and envision a haven where all are welcomed truly touched me. She even welcomed my traveling companion, a grown man, who took over the water ways area and controlled the water flow for all the boys playing that day .... Thankfully we were not shown the door. Janice, I trust our paths will meet again, but for now smooth sailing in your next quest.
With heartfelt respect,
Mary Alice Matthews