Kerry Sautner, a light skinned woman with short curly hair. She is facing the viewer and is smiling.
Photo courtesy of Kerry Sautner.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site names new CEO


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On May 24, 2023, the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (ESPHS) announced that its Board of Directors has chosen Dr. Kerry Sautner  as their new President and CEO. 

She will be taking head of the ESPHS's mission to "interpret the legacy of criminal justice reform" and seek to encourage the engagement of and to deepen the national conversation about criminal justice.

Dr. Sautner’s arrival comes following the retirement of predecessor Sara Jane Elk, who will remain in a supporting role through late July 2023.

“With impressive qualifications and a passion for museums and the power of place, Dr. Sautner is the leader we need to guide Eastern State through its next era of growth, engagement, and impact,” said Chair of the Board of Directors of ESPHS John McInerney, in a statement.

Prior to its closing, Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the most famous and expensive prisons at the time of its completion. Presently, Eastern State Penitentiary is a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors, coming from around the world to explore the site.

The goal of the ESPHS's public history program is to draw connections to contemporary justice reforms, taking an approach that seeks to take into account multiple perspectives, include and amplify marginalized voices, all while taking into account visitor interests.

“I am honored to join Eastern State Penitentiary,” said Kerry Sautner. “I have a deep passion for teaching the history and modern impact of the criminal justice system to illuminate freedom and voice within our Constitutional system.”

“I look forward to collaborating with the team and our stakeholders to strengthen the institution’s position as our nation’s leading criminal justice museum, and to build upon the impressive work of creating a national platform for dialogue and change,” she continued

Prior to joining the ESPHS, Dr. Sautner served as Chief Learning Officer at the National Constitution Center, overseeing the center's educational programming and its visitor experience, having joined the organization in 2005 as a Director of Public programs.

Other previous roles include working as a training manager for the Franklin Institute, acting as lead program developer for all shows, educational programs, and museum offerings, working on the exhibit development team.

She also served as an adjunct professor at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Sautner earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine biology from Rutgers University, and both her Master's in Elementary Education, and Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Management from Drexel University.

Dr. Sautner officially begins the role on July 10, 2023, serving as the second director in the museum's 29 years of operation.

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