La Jolla Historical Society names Heath Fox as new executive director

Heath Fox provides a tour of Wisteria cottage, which the society uses as a museum and exhibit space. The building, designed by architect Irving Gill, will undergo a historic restoration next year that is expected to cost just shy of $600,000
Heath Fox provides a tour of Wisteria cottage, which the society uses as a museum and exhibit space. The building, designed by architect Irving Gill, will undergo a historic restoration next year that is expected to cost just shy of $600,000
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Heath Fox provides a tour of Wisteria cottage, which the society uses as a museum and exhibit space. The building, designed by architect Irving Gill, will undergo a historic restoration next year that is expected to cost just shy of $600,000.

By Pat Sherman

The La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) hired longtime Carlsbad resident Heath Fox as its new executive director, following a search that began in February. Fox, a retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel, served as associate director of administration for both the Museum of Photographic Arts and the San Diego Museum of Art, both located in Balboa Park. More recently, he spent five years as assistant dean of arts and humanities at UC San Diego and served as a consultant for a new museum the Broad Art Foundation is building in Los Angeles.

Fox, who replaces former executive director John Bolthouse and interim executive director F.H. “Trip” Bennett, will oversee three fulltime and three part-time staffers at the society, which has an annual operating budget of about $500,000. Fox’s salary falls within the range of $77,000 to $81,000, which the LJHS board’s executive committee budgeted for the position, said Connie Branscomb, the board’s immediate past president.

Qualifications the board sought for the position included: experience leading a nonprofit arts or cultural organization; organizational management and/or supervisory experience such as strategic planning and staff supervision; financial management experience; and experience managing museum exhibits and archives.

“We are very, very happy with Heath Fox,” said Branscomb, who served on the committee that selected Fox from an initial pool of 46 applicants, five of which were called in for interviews. “He brings to this job all the qualities that we think that we need.”

Fox said he was seeking an opportunity to be executive director of a cultural institution after finishing his consulting job in Los Angeles with the Broad Art Foundation.

“The society is in a really exciting part of its organizational history right now,” he said, nothing a planned restoration of Wisteria Cottage on Prospect Street, where the society’s museum and exhibit space are held.

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Heath Fox started his job as the La Jolla Historical Society's new executive director Sept. 4.

The building, which once served as a residence for founding La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, has also housed a bookstore and the Balmer School, a precursor to La Jolla Country Day School.

The restoration, designed by Ione Stiegler of La Jolla-based IS Architecture, is expected to begin in February, coinciding with the LJHS’s 50th anniversary year.

Fox said the society is planning additional activities and events throughout the year to mark the anniversary, which falls in June.

“The society is a very strong organization, in large part because of the community leadership and the community support that it has,” he said, noting the strength of events such as the Secret Garden Tour and Concours d’Elegance. “I’ve been so impressed by the level of activity of the board and the volunteers — the scope of their involvement and the sincerity of their commitment,” he said. “It’s just an extraordinarily strong organization for this community.”

Fox said that while the society has done a great job with its efforts to preserve La Jolla’s beach cottages and other pre-World War II era structures, he’d also like to focus on The Village’s mid-century modern architecture of the 1950s and ’60s, which has now reached the threshold where it can be deemed historic and saved from demolition.

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