Philadelphia Museum of Art Appoints Alphonso Atkins as Miller Worley Deputy Director for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access following a Nationwide Search
Philadelphia, PA (June 28, 2021)—The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced today the appointment of Alphonso Atkins Jr. as the Miller Worley Deputy Director for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA), effective August 16, 2021. In this newly established position, Atkins will be responsible for developing and overseeing a comprehensive strategy to achieve the institution’s goals of becoming more inclusive and creating a more equitable workplace culture that better reflects the diversity of Philadelphia and the global communities that the museum serves. He will arrive from the University of South Carolina Upstate where he is Chief Diversity Officer and Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion. In Philadelphia, Atkins will play a leading role in developing and implementing policies to advance these values across all aspects of the museum’s work. A member of the senior management team, he will be central to decision-making relating to workforce development, the creation of a training program for staff and trustees that fosters a shared understanding of the value of diversity in the workplace, and the diversification of suppliers who provide the museum with goods and services. Working with the other members of the museum’s senior leadership team, he will also play a strong role in the selection and presentation of educational offerings, special exhibitions, and the interpretation of the museum’s collection to ensure that these initiatives reflect the museum’s commitment to equity and inclusive excellence.
This new position has been generously endowed by Leslie Anne Miller, Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees, and her husband Richard B. Worley. Atkins will report directly to Timothy Rub, the museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO.
Leslie Miller stated: “Our Board of Trustees recognizes the urgency and duty to respond to the racial and social inequities that are still embedded in museums and other public institutions, and it is committed to change. We are delighted to have found in Alphonso a proven leader who possesses the knowledge and experience we need to fully deliver on these important goals. My thanks to the entire board for its commitment to this process, and especially its Diversity Working Group, so ably co-chaired by Trustees Romy Diaz and Phoebe Haddon, who worked collaboratively with the board and with staff to develop a set of core principles to guide us and to help us bring this search to its successful outcome.”
Timothy Rub added: “Alphonso comes to the museum at a very important moment. Over the past year we have engaged in a great deal of introspection, discussion, and staff training as we have sought to strengthen our own workplace culture and, at the same time, continue to build our capacity to engage and collaborate effectively with diverse communities to develop exhibitions, educational programs and other initiatives. And we are pleased to welcome an individual with both a fully defined mandate and a proven record to lead these discussions and weave all of these activities together into whole cloth. As events of the last year have demonstrated, both in Philadelphia and across the country, our future success requires a comprehensive and sustained shift in the direction of greater inclusion. I am deeply grateful to Leslie and Richard for their commitment to endow this new position at this critical point in time, and I am delighted that Alphonso has accepted our offer. He will bring to this work not only vision, commitment and energy, but also a broad perspective on diversity work and long experience in this field that will enable us to achieve our goal of changing and strengthening this institution.”
Rub continued: “I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the exemplary work that our Director of Government and External Affairs, Nicole Allen White, did over the past year by taking on the additional role of Interim Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access. By establishing a new office to do this work, initiating staff and trustee training, engaging staff in discussions about diversity and inclusion, and supporting the efforts of the Diversity Working Group of our Board of Trustees, Nicole stepped in at a vitally important moment and established a strong foundation for the work we will do in this area in the future.”
Alphonso Atkins Jr. commented: “The PMA is inextricably linked with the identity of Philadelphia, and as the city evolves, so too must the museum. Beyond the beautiful renovations of the museum’s physical footprint, there is a genuine desire to reimagine the PMA and its impact, identity, and influence as an institution committed to equity and inclusive excellence for all Philadelphians. I couldn’t be more excited to join the Philadelphia community and lead this work at one of America’s premiere cultural institutions.“
A native of Saint Louis, Atkins has an exceptional background in administration, the law, teaching, and the arts. Since 2017, he has led efforts at the University of South Carolina Upstate to resolve inequitable conditions facing historically marginalized communities through inclusive dialogue, collaboration and targeted review and assessment of institutional policies and practices. An accomplished attorney, Atkins also served as the University’s Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator and previously held the role of Director of Institutional Equity at the Community College of Rhode Island. Atkins served as Regional Diversity Officer and was awarded full professorship in Communication at Ivy Tech Community College, the largest singularly accredited community college in the nation. In 2015, Atkins received a National Endowment for the Humanities Teaching Fellowship in World Religions and Culture in conjunction with Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) where he spent nearly a decade (2000-2008) as Director of Forensics and Debate and a Distinguished Lecturer on the Communication and Theatre faculty in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts.
He has served on many nonprofit boards, including Chair of the African-American Leadership Society of the United Way of the Piedmont, Goodwill of South Carolina, and the Madame Walker Theatre and Legacy Center in Indianapolis. He was a founding board member and executive vice-president of the Indianapolis International Film Festival.
Atkins received his JD degree at Indiana University, McKinney School of Law (2007) and an MA degree in Theatre Arts from Minnesota State University-Mankato (2001). In 1994, he received his B.S. degree in Speech Communication and Humanities from Northwest Missouri State University (1994). He is also a Certified Culinarian, Le Cordon Bleu North America.
The Board’s Diversity Working Group Co-Chairs, Romy Diaz and Phoebe Haddon, in a joint statement, said: “As a cornerstone of art and culture in Philadelphia, the museum has a unique role in serving many varied constituencies. The focus, as the museum moves forward, is on making diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility central to everything it does, and this overarching goal is reflected in the statement of DEIA principles that we have developed as part of our collaborations in this work (link). It has been our honor to advance these initiatives and it is a great pleasure to welcome Alphonso to the museum.”
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