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Exploris names CEO

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Exploris museum in Raleigh has named Sally Edwards, a local business and marketing consultant, as its new president and CEO.

Edwards, who starts her new job May 7, says Exploris is poised for “something big and new and exciting and different.”

The museum is set to address its debt, which it has pared from a high of $5 million, she says, and in April will get the results of a study on the feasibility of merging with Playspace and also of creating a “whole new children’s museum” downtown.

Creating that combined entity and integrating it into the redevelopment of downtown Raleigh will require improving the museum’s galleries, exhibits and programs, and launching “grassroots community marketing to really create a buzz,” Edwards says.

“There will be opportunities to explore the brand and what the brand means to the community,” she says.

Critical to the effort will be making Exploris “more relevant and fun for the community,” she says. “Before we create expectations, we’ll maek sure we can deliver.”

Edwards will join Exploris in the face of progress it has made cleaning up financial debt and deficits amassed under its founders, Gordon Smith III and Ann Bryan, who served as board chair and CEO, respectively, before quitting under pressure.

Under Bonnie Hancock, a former president of Progress Fuels who was named interim CEO when Bryan quit, Exploris cut its staff and expenses, stabilized revenue, generated new corporate sponsorships, secured an offer by its bank lenders to forgive part of its $5 million debt, and instituted plans for a merger with Raleigh’s Playspace children’s museum.

Hancock left last fall to head the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative at N.C. State University, and Exploris has been headed on an interim basis by Pam Hartley, the museum’s vice president for exhibits and programs.

A graduate of the Wake County public schools, Edwards has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in business administration from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

She has served as a consultant for eight years, providing business-planning and strategic-marketing services.

Before that, as marketing vice president at Raleigh-based Carolinas Golf Group, she oversaw new course openings customer-service programs, public relations and promotions. The company was sold in 1998.

Edwards, who in 2005 and 2006 also was marketing partner in Aris Partners, a private equity group, formerly worked on the campaign staff of United Way of Wake County, and serves on the boards of Urban Ministries of Wake County and Pines of Carolina Girls Scout Council.

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