Maritime museum names new director
MIDDLEBURY — The board of directors of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) announces the appointment of J. Michael “Mike” Smiles as the museum’s new executive director. Smiles assumes the role from Erick Tichonuk, who is stepping down from the position. He begins the leadership role on Jan. 5.
“Mike brings a breadth of experience that will broaden the museum’s impact in reaching and serving diverse audiences through our collection of historic replica vessels, innovative education programs, hands-on rowing programs, publications, research, and permanent and traveling exhibits,” said Board Chair Bob Beach. “We’re delighted to have him join our team of highly dedicated staff, committed volunteers, and engaged members and donors as we begin our 30th year of operation.”
A career nonprofit professional, Smiles comes to LCMM from the New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) in Stonington, Conn., where he served as vice president and director of advancement for three years. Named by U.S. Sailing as the 2013 Outstanding Community Sailing Center in America, NESS offers education programs to more than 3,000 students annually at three locations and established one of the first AmeriCorps public school partnerships that incorporates kayaking, marine science, and sailing to advance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining such an outstanding organization, especially given its inspiring and innovative mission of discovery and hands-on learning,” said Smiles. “I am proud to help lead the museum as a center of excellence in nautical archaeology, boat building, and touring replica historic ships that bring history to life for thousands of people.”
A long-time summer resident of Essex, N.Y., on Lake Champlain, Smiles is the former director of development at Mystic Seaport – the Museum of America and the Sea, and chief development officer of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill children founded by Paul Newman. Smiles holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven and is a graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, will be moving to Vermont from their home of 20 years in Noank, Conn.
LCMM is on a growth track: its replica 1862 schooner, Lois McClure, recently completed her 11th educational tour under the leadership of museum co-founder and historian Arthur Cohn and welcomed thousands of visitors at ports in New York, Vermont and Canada. The Maritime Museum’s Vergennes campus now boasts 16 buildings for exhibitions and programs including a year-round boat-building program, adventure kayaking experiences, and nautical archaeology research; and replica vessels including the Philadelphia II, a 50-foot replica of one of the nation’s first gunboats built to defend the country during the American Revolution.
Smiles will be part of an effort to raise awareness and continue expanding the museum’s education programs, securing its leadership in nautical archaeology and educational outreach and impact. “Many members, donors, and partners are eager to support the museum because they appreciate its innovative approach in bringing history to life through hands-on learning and self-discovery,” he said.
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