Rock Hall names new President and CEO

Rock Hall names new President and CEO
Gregory S. Harris
Gregory S. Harris

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum announced that Gregory S. Harris, its vice president of development since 2008, will become president and chief executive officer. Harris, who holds a graduate degree in museum studies and whose industry background also includes curatorial, membership and sponsorship experience, was approved by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. board following a broad nationwide search.

A driving force behind growing the Museum's philanthropic support and a key figure in fundraising, planning and execution of the successful 2012 Hall of Fame Induction Week, Harris, 47, succeeds long-time President and Chief Executive Officer Terry Stewart, who announced in May his intention to retire from the position by the end of next year. The transition will be effective January 1, 2013.

In his current role, Harris oversees development, special events, membership, board relations and government affairs. He also assists in numerous other areas, including strategic planning and institutional marketing, and has helped to acquire archival collections for the Museum's Library and Archives.

"Throughout the search process, all of the voting was unanimous for Greg," said Board Chair William W. Rowley, who headed a seven-member search committee. "His passion for music, his tremendous success as our head of development and his strong track record at the Baseball Hall of Fame provide an outstanding combination of skills that will help drive the continued success of the Museum."

Before joining the Rock Hall, Harris spent 14 years at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he advanced from curating the Hall of Fame Library and Archives' broadcast collection to serving as vice president of development. During his tenure, he became a trusted advisor to the museum president, worked directly with Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and created a strong national network of donors, sponsors and influencers.

"I'm honored to be entrusted to lead the organization that preserves and presents this amazing art form for future generations," said Harris. "Rock and roll is deeply rooted in our culture and when interpreted through a museum, provides a powerful forum to teach and inspire. Through Terry Stewart's leadership, the staff has put this institution on solid ground. The Rock Hall is in the best shape ever and I'm looking forward to a tremendous future."

Harris' passion for music made the opportunity to shift from baseball to rock and roll an incredibly compelling choice. In the 1980s, he and a partner founded, owned and operated the Philadelphia Record Exchange, a retail store that specialized in selling rare, used and independent records. The store mirrored and amplified his love of rock, R&B, soul, blues, country, folk, punk and other musical genres. He also served as a road manager for a nationally touring group and played guitar in garage bands.

"As a musician and historian I'm thrilled to see a friend, Greg Harris, named as President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," said drummer, DJ and producer Questlove of the Roots. "His store, the Philadelphia Record Exchange was my home away from home, and most of my 70,000 plus vinyl records came from there."

Harris remains an enthusiastic music lover, regularly attends live concerts and is a frequent contributor to the blog.

"Since coming to the Rock Hall, Greg has gained deep institutional knowledge and built excellent relationships with the entire Rock Hall team and the Cleveland community," said Stewart. "Without question, he has the experience and capability as well as the passion, energy and strategic vision needed to lead the Museum to new heights."

The search for Stewart's successor was conducted by Heidrick & Struggles' Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman of that firm and leader of its CEO and Board search practice. She and her team screened hundreds of potential candidates from all over the United States to come up with 37 viable candidates. Of that list, Heidrick & Struggles interviewed 20 and then pared down the list for the search committee to personally interview a diverse group of 12 candidates.

The search committee included representatives of both the Cleveland Rock and Roll, Inc. board and the New York-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation board. In addition to Rowley, its members were former Chair William B. Summers, Jr.; Vice Chairs Christopher Connor and Jerry Sue Thornton; Trustee Alec Wightman; Jann Wenner, chairman of the Foundation; and Joel Peresman, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation.

The committee recommended Harris to the 10-member Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. board, which includes members of both the Cleveland and New York boards.

"We were impressed by the outstanding caliber of every one of the candidates we interviewed," said Wenner. "Clearly, however, Greg had the best mix of experience, vision and passion for the art. We now look forward to seeing even greater things from him and the team at the Museum."

A native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Harris holds a B.A. degree in history from Temple University and a master's degree from the Cooperstown Graduate Program for History and Museum Studies. He resides in the Cleveland area with his wife, Deirdre, and two children, Alex and Jack.