Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is stepping down

Barnhart's departure will be effective Dec. 31.

Posted: Dec 5, 2019 12:36 PM
Updated: Dec 5, 2019 8:32 PM

Dr. Deborah Barnhart, the CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, is stepping down.

Barnhart has led the center for the past nine years. Her departure will be effective Dec. 31.

Deborah Barnhart

“It has been my honor and a pleasure to serve this institution and the State of Alabama,” Barnhart said. "The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the center of our community and the icon of our mutual achievement. Our work has influenced millions around the world to new personal heights. There is no more satisfying legacy than the accomplishments of our Space Camp alumni, the national pride we inspire in our visitors as they learn about the amazing work underway by Team Redstone.”

Barnhart was the director of Space Camp from 1986 to 1990. The center says she plans to pursue other missions in Washington D.C., Denmark and the Gulf Coast, but she will retain a home in Huntsville.

Louie Ramirez, who is described as a longtime Center leader and who has served as its Chief Financial Officer, will be the interim CEO until Barnhart’s replacement is selected.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center says Barnhart will advise and support the recruitment and hiring of the new CEO, which is expected to take 60 to 90 days.

The center provided this statement on Thursday:

The Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission today announces that Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is stepping down. Dr. Barnhart has led the Rocket Center for the past nine years and her departure is effective Dec. 31, 2019.

“On behalf of the Alabama Space and Science Exhibit Commission, I want to say how grateful we are to Dr Barnhart for her strong leadership, creative vision, devoted service and unmatched legacy,” John Nerger, Chairman of ASSEC, said. “She has earned the respect and admiration of so many throughout the Tennessee Valley, the State of Alabama and across the country. Hers are difficult shoes to fill so we will work hard to identify and select a worthy successor.”

Nerger also noted Dr. Barnhart’s infectious enthusiasm and far-reaching vision in a tenure that has seen an 89 percent increase in gross revenue and record-breaking Space Camp attendance. She leaves the Center after the stellar success of the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 celebration, with attendance reaching more than a million visitors for the first time.

“It has been my honor and a pleasure to serve this institution and the State of Alabama,” Dr. Barnhart, said. "The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the center of our community and the icon of our mutual achievement. Our work has influenced millions around the world to new personal heights. There is no more satisfying legacy than the accomplishments of our Space Camp alumni, the national pride we inspire in our visitors as they learn about the amazing work underway by Team Redstone.”

In addition to her time as CEO and Executive Director, Dr. Barnhart previously served as Director of Space Camp from 1986 to 1990. She now plans to pursue other missions in Washington D.C., Denmark and the Gulf Coast and will retain a home in Huntsville.

Louie Ramirez, a long-time Center leader who has served as its Chief Financial Officer, will serve as interim CEO until Dr. Barnhart’s replacement is named. ASSEC has named Dr. Barnhart CEO Emeritus, and she will advise and support the recruitment and hiring of a new CEO, a process that is expected to take 60 to 90 days.

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