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LINDA EPPS NAMED PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE NEW JERSEY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

2005-12-29

Linda Caldwell Epps, a lifelong New Jersey resident with over 30 years of professional experience in the state’s academic and cultural life, has been named President and CEO of The New Jersey Historical Society, the statewide museum, library and archives, based in Newark at 52 Park Place.

In announcing the appointment, John Zinn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said “The New Jersey Historical Society, as both the oldest cultural institution in New Jersey and the only statewide historical society, has the mission of giving New Jersey history an active and powerful voice. If that voice is to be true, it must reflect the great diversity of our state. Linda Epps brings to the Historical Society a stellar background that reflects accomplishments in building programs and environments that are conducive to inclusion, inquiry and enlightenment.”

Ms. Epps assumes the leadership of the Historical Society during a milestone year. Founded in 1845, the non-profit museum, library, and archives is observing its 160th anniversary of collecting, preserving, and interpreting the rich and intricate political, social, cultural and economic history of New Jersey to the broadest possible audiences. Its 160th anniversary exhibit, Transit Drivers, Honeymooners, Midwives: Collecting and Telling New Jersey Stories, reveals history as an inclusive experience. Instead of focusing on some of the famous people who left an indelible mark on the state during the past 160 years, the exhibition puts the spotlight on some of the countless others whose stories people don’t know, and whose seemingly “ordinary” lives help to tell the story of how the state and the nation have changed.

“What makes our state such a wonderful place is its diversity,” Ms. Epps said. “Not just the diversity of people, but the diversity of our geography, our industry, our architecture, our politics. This everyday parade of diversity is what makes New Jersey an exciting place to live. It gives us the opportunity to discover and rediscover our riches, to explore what makes us unique as New Jerseyans and to make this relevant to our diverse population.”

Seeing history “as an opportunity to teach the past and present along with the future,” Epps said, “at best, interpreting history of the 20th century, the 19th century and even the 18th century gives us an opportunity to reach everyone in our community and create shared experiences that bring us closer together. Good times and bad, triumphs and tragedies, financial crunches and great prosperity are all part of New Jersey history. Our past is part of our teaching. Our present is what we celebrate. And our future is what we are building with every exhibit, every event and every program we offer to the residents of our state.”

She said the Historical Society’s collections are the physical records of New Jersey’s past and present that tell New Jersey stories and are a way to touch, understand, and explore the state’s shared history as well as our personal past. The permanent museum collection includes paintings, drawings and sculpture; costumes and accessories; furniture; silver, ceramics and glass; and over 90 other categories of artifacts. The library materials form the most comprehensive, privately-funded library on New Jersey's past.

Ms. Epps, whose undergraduate and graduate education focused on American Studies and African-American Studies, is nationally recognized for creating and implementing diversity programs. She served as consultant for the Ford Foundation-funded initiative of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, Diversity, Democracy, and Liberal Learning, as well as for diversity and student development programs at the College of St. Elizabeth, Georgian Court College and Essex County College in New Jersey; Keene State College, Keene, NH; University of Massachusetts at Boston; Mt. Union College, Ohio and for the Public Television series Point of View and New Jersey Gender Project.

A graduate of Douglass College with a B.A., she holds an M.A. from Seton Hall University and is currently completing her dissertation, “Olive Street: The Effect of Migration on a Northern New Jersey Urban Community,” for a Doctor of Letters at Drew University.

With her strong educational background, Ms. Epps will be an integral part of the educational mission of the Historical Society, which draws over 20,000 New Jersey school children, adults, and families annually to participate in its programs. She has over 30 years of teaching experience in the Humanities, including positions as Adjunct Professor at Bloomfield College, Rutgers University and Essex County College.

For 27 years she was employed by Bloomfield College where she was one of the architects of the college’s mission to prepare students to perform at the peak of their potential in a multiracial/multicultural environment. During her tenure there she worked in three major divisions of the college; academic affairs, student affairs and college relations. Among her responsibilities during the years she served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Bloomfield College, she supervised the College’s Westminster Arts and Culture Center.

Ms. Epps served as Vice President for College Relations at Bloomfield College for the four years prior to becoming Vice President for Institutional Relations for New Jersey Public Television and Radio, where she worked for two years before joining the Historical Society as Director of Advancement in 2004.

Throughout her career, she has been intensely involved with issues that have molded and shaped our national culture and our New Jersey identity. She has presented at national conferences, including Council of Independent Colleges, American Council of Education, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Noel and Levitz Retention Conference, University of Oklahoma Diversity Conference, National Council of Educational Opportunity Association, and American Library Association.

Her active involvement in community service includes National Council for Equal Opportunity in Education – Past New Jersey President for local chapter - Association of Equality and Excellence in Education; Douglass College, Rutgers University, Class of 1973 Fund Agent; Zonta International Women’s Organization – Chapter President; Leadership New Jersey Fellows – Board Member; New Jersey Shakespeare Festival – Past Board Member and Education Committee Chair; Association for the Study of African American Life and History – Past Chapter President; St. Cecelia’s Elementary School Board – Past Secretary; and United Way – Allocations Committee.

In Newark, where she resides with her husband, Mark Epps, Jr. and their two sons, Mark III and Bryan, Ms. Epps is a Board member of NorthStar Academy Charter School. She is an active member of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, where she serves as President, Book Club; Adult Sunday School teacher; Member of the Jazz Vespers Committee, and the Welcome Committee and Past Vice President of the Children’s and Youth Choirs. She is a Past President of the James Street Commons Condominium Association; and Past Board Chairman and member of the Capital Campaign Committee of Aljira Arts and Cultural Center.

Ms. Epps succeeds Sally Yerkovich, who now serves as President of The Center, a visitor and learning center that will open in Spring 2006 at 120 Liberty Street in New York across the street from the World Trade Center site. The Tribute Center, a project of the September 11th Families' Association, will be a place where visitors can learn about
the events of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.

The New Jersey Historical Society–It’s a museum, it’s a library and it’s an archives and it's all about New Jersey. Explore interactive exhibitions, research local history and your own personal roots, participate in family and adult programs, and enjoy lectures and walking tours. Admission is free to the exhibition galleries and most programs. Museum hours are Tues. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Library hours, Tues. through Sat. 12 noon to 5 p.m. www.jerseyhistory.org.

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