- Press Release
- Oct 31, 2023
New CEO Takes Helm at Space Center Houston after National Search
A new CEO with extensive fundraising, strategy and communications experience takes the helm at the nonprofit Space Center Houston in the midst of a period of significant growth.
William T. Harris has more than 30 years in nonprofit leadership including senior positions at a renowned science center and universities, where he led multi-million-dollar capital and fundraising campaigns, principal and major gifts, marketing campaigns, communications, government relations and strategy initiatives. Harris previously was at the California Science Center Foundation as senior vice president of development and marketing. He oversaw all external affairs including capital campaigns, board relations, annual and membership programs, public funding, marketing and communications.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead this exceptional center and help develop its potential as a great science center,” said Harris, who also is president of the board of directors for the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, which owns and operates the educationally focused nonprofit. “Space Center Houston makes a difference in the lives of our guests every day as we strive to fulfill our mission to inspire visitors of all ages through the wonders of space exploration and awaken the limitless possibilities within each of us. This is especially important in Houston, which has many industries requiring a STEM educated workforce.”
Harris was a leader on the team to bring the space shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center, including its funding, promotion, transport, communications, marketing and exhibit opening. He also directed a $165 million campaign creating a major new expansion called Ecosystems which nearly doubled the center’s exhibit space presenting an unprecedented blend of live plants and animals, and hands-on science exhibits in 11 immersive environments. It also established the Science Center School, a neighborhood science-based elementary school serving 650 children.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth at Space Center Houston and in our foundation in the last several years and William’s leadership will bring us to new heights,” said Fred Griffin, chairman of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation board of directors, which conducted a national search for the CEO. “William brings a tremendous experience at the national level, great vision and a commitment to excellence and public service.”
Harris is a member of the board of directors for the American Alliance of Museums, and co-chairs the Development Committee for the Association of Science-Technology Centers. He holds a bachelor of science in psychology from Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Harris earned certificates in development from The Fundraising Institute at Boston University School of Communications and in community health and the delivery of health services at Tufts.
Other prior leadership roles include the University of California, Los Angeles; the RAND/UCLA Center for Soviet Studies; the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts in Boston; and the Boston University School of Medicine. He served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and is fluent in Spanish.
Harris replaces Richard E. Allen Jr., who is only the second CEO in the nonprofit’s 24 years. During his tenure, the center garnered international media coverage and was called “The Big Draw” in Houston by USA Today. In the last two years, the center debuted a new membership program, obtained Smithsonian Affiliation, held its first gala and set a new annual attendance record in 2015. In January, the nonprofit opened the one-of-a-kind international landmark Independence Plaza, a complex featuring the shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905 and shuttle replica Independence. Under Allen’s leadership, the center transformed operations and strengthened the financial long-term growth of the nonprofit organization.
This is the fourth senior management position hired in the past year as the center continues to draw exceptional leaders to join the growing nonprofit.
With approximately 400 employees and contractors, Space Center Houston is the No. 1 international attraction in the greater Houston area, generating a $73 million annual economic impact, 925 jobs and $36 million in personal income. Houston’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate, it is the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center.
The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit space museum with an extensive science education program. The cornerstone of its science education mission is Space Center Houston, which USA Today called “The Big Draw” in the greater Houston area with nearly 1 million visitors annually and a $73 million annual economic impact on the greater Houston area. Space Center Houston is Houston’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center. The center draws more than 100,000 teachers and students annually from around the world. For more information, go to www.spacecenter.org.