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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Friends of DuPage Children’s Museum pay tribute to retiring museum executive


Above / As President/CEO Sarah Orleans prepares to leave the DuPage Children’s Museum on Nov. 1, sons of the two founders of the popular destination for youngsters were on hand to express appreciation. DCM was founded in 1987 by Dorothy Carpenter and Louise Beem. Here, Sarah Orleans is pictured with David Carpenter and Marc Beem. (Photo courtesy Jaime Johnson for DCM)

Earlier this year, DuPage Children’s Museum Board of Directors announced the planned retirement of President & CEO Sarah Orleans. With her last day being November 1, we take time to celebrate the success and impact she has had on the organization.  

Since assuming the leadership role in 2014, Orleans has guided DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) through a strategic planning process focused on fiscal health, strategic growth, and expanded engagement. In the wake of a devastating flood that destroyed many of the Museum’s exhibits and resulted in a nine-month closure, Orleans navigated the uncertainty to rebuild the physical spaces as well as add programs and memberships to ensure that the Museum’s rich learning environment is accessible to all children.

Find the DuPage Childen’s Museum full of fun kids’ activities at 301 N. Washington Street.

Reflections with brief history for future of DuPage Children’s Museum

Past board chairman, David Carpenter, son of Museum co-founder, Dorothy Carpenter, reflected on the role of serendipity in the establishment and success of DCM. Of his mother and her co-founding partner, Louise Beem, Carpenter noted, “The only thing that exceeded their knowledge and enthusiasm for Early Childhood education was their complete ignorance of what it would take to establish this museum.” 

That remark set the tone for the tributes to Sarah Orleans. 

Carpenter went on to explain, “It is really impossible to find words adequate to convey what Sarah has meant to the museum…We all think of DCM as it is today – a thriving, dynamic institution with an unquestionable future. Yet, that wasn’t the case when Sarah was recruited and hired. DCM was performing wonderful work, but we were running chronic deficits that produced disaffected board members; disaffected donors.”

Thanks to Orleans’ professional career running cultural institutions focused on children and hands-on early learning, “She prevented the ship from sinking” noted Carpenter who went on to detail her strategic impact.

“Sarah restructured the staff; giving them each accountability for a piece of the budget; implemented financial controls for long-term sustainability; hired wonderful people for new slots; created a dynamic museum. She raised money – several hundred thousand $$ for a rainy day fund which gave us the freedom and flexibility to focus on our mission. Sarah performed a series of miracles; there are not words adequate to express what she has meant to the institution.”

Museum Board Chairman, Mark Trembacki, praised Orleans’ work to advance the Museum as a leader in early childhood education experiences locally and nationally.

“Under Sarah’s leadership, fundraising has focused on building capital reserve funds and also delivering programming critical to the healthy development of all children across the region,” noted Trembacki in a news release.

Trembacki went on to share the details of Sarah’s beloved Family Access Program. 

Family Access Program

With Orleans’ vision of creating deeper engagement with low-income families and introducing our professional development assistance to parents and their caseworkers, DCM submitted a grant proposal to the DuPage Foundation requesting support for the Family Access Membership (FAM) program – deeply discounted memberships for those who qualify. The goal of the initial $10,000 grant was to engage 100 FAM families in 2015.  Not quite five years later, as a direct result of DCM’s community outreach, generous individual donors, and corporate community responsibility, DCM now serves more than 2,000 low and moderate-income families visiting the Museum.

When they walk through the big red door, families find countless opportunities to create fond memories while their youngsters enjoy exploring the DuPage Children’s Museum.

‘No margin; no mission’

Orleans leaves behind a number of witty words of wisdom; her signature, “No margin; no mission,” exemplifies her legacy.  DuPage Children’s Museum ignites the potential of all children to learn through hands-on exploration by integrating math, art, and science.  Exhibit development and early learning programs delivered by highly qualified early learning professionals are expensive.

As a nonprofit, 501c3, DuPage Children’s Museum is funded in part through memberships and admissions, but DCM also relies on donated funds as income to support and advance Museum operations. To keep the play growing, DCM must earn more than $5M annually. 

Orleans also expressed, “I have loved every minute of my work here; as I’ve said many times, this is truly the greatest team I have ever worked with. From the front line to the board room, our team is deeply committed to all children learning through play at DCM. Even though there are so many reasons it will be hard to leave Chicagoland, a new granddaughter and all of you most especially, it is time for me to return home where I will spend more time with my husband, and return to my consulting practice with lots more time for hiking.”

“We are incredibly thankful for all that Sarah has contributed to the Museum and will continue to build on these successes,” added Dale Mancuso, Museum board member. “Sarah has attracted an exceptional, visionary leadership team who are second to none and will ensure continuity of our mission. We thank Sarah for her service to children and families across the region.”

DCM’s newly appointed President & CEO, Andrea Ingram officially starts on Nov. 4, 2019.

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DuPage Children's Museum
DuPage Children's Museumhttp://dupagechildrens.org/
The DuPage Children’s Museum’s mission is to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving in young children through self-directed, open-ended experiences; integration of the arts, science and math; the child-adult learning partnership.

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