Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s new president and CEO is the first African American in the role

Erin Amico succeeds former president and CEO Deborah Lahey, who retired after 12 years with the museum.

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s president and CEO stands in front of the Chicago River.

Erin Amico became the president and CEO of the Notebaert museum on July 18.

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Erin Amico describes her first week as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s president and CEO as a surreal experience.

“I’ve been coming to the museum ever since I was a little kid with my parents. Coming back now and seeing everything behind the scenes is sort of like a look behind the curtain,” Amico said.

In early June, the Board of Trustees at the Nature Museum elected Amico to become its first Black president and CEO in its 165 years of operation.

Amico started July 18, succeeding Deborah Lahey, who retired from the position in June after 12 years.

Born and raised in Hyde Park, Amico said she spent most of her time in the Lincoln Park or Gold Coast neighborhoods where the museum and the school she attended, the Latin School of Chicago, are located.

Coming from a family of scientists and educators, Amico said her love for nature and science was something that was ingrained in her from an early age.

“The museum was a little bit of an escape for me, and when I was little, I wanted to be a zoologist or primatologist,” Amico said. “My interest in those areas stemmed from wanting to understand more about the environment and our role in it.”

In her previous position as chief marketing officer at tech nonprofit P33, Amico focused on engaging and educating younger audiences on what Chicago has to offer in tech. With that digital outreach experience, she hopes to expand the educational work the museum is doing.

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