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Outstanding Alumni

College of Arts and Sciences

Michael W. Hager - 2012 Outstanding Alumnus

Doctor of Philosophy - 1973 - Geology and Paleontology

Characterized by energy, imagination, creativity and leadership, Michael (Mick) Hager has positively impacted the national museum community. Hager started work at small museums and now serves as president and CEO of the San Diego Natural History Museum. By changing the mission statement, purpose, and vision and by changing the physical layout of the museum, he has contributed greatly to its recent success. Since 1991, the Museum has more than doubled in size, the budget has increased five-fold, and the staff has increased from 40 to 120. Professor Emeritus Jason Lillegraven, Departments of Geology and Geophysics and Zoology and Physiology, said, “The recent innovations required levels of imagination, guts, and diligence that few other individuals could bring to fruition.”  

Hager’s work at the Fryxell Geology Museum, The Museum of the Rockies, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History led to his hiring at the San Diego Natural History Museum in hopes that Hager could bring the museum out of a financial slump and chart a new course for the Museum. In 1978, as executive director of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, Hager helped evolve the museum into one of the premier natural history museums in the Rocky Mountain region. He helped to raise $8 million for a major expansion of the Museum and program. His work at this particular museum received attention from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and, from 1989 to 1991, he served as the executive director in Martinsville, Virginia. Hager aided the museum in becoming nationally recognized with world-class programs.

“An exposure to the broad range of liberal arts as well as graduate work in geology, biology, and paleontology has served me very well in my professional career,” Hager said. He is an active participant within the San Diego community. Currently, he serves as the immediate past president of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, a collaboration of 26 different institutions including museums, science centers, gardens, youth symphony orchestras, the Old Globe and the San Diego Zoo. Hager was one of the founders of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and a member of the executive committee of the Board. Hager shares his deep commitment to sharing art and science with the general public.

Outside of his work at museums, Hager has produced an award winning film as president of CinemaCorp of the Californias, an educational film company. His film Ocean Oasis is a $5 million large-format film about Baja, California, and has won many awards including the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Best Theatrical Program Award. As a creative, imaginative man who believes in the educational potential of museums, Hager has used his passion and liberal arts education to have a positive impact in the world. “Mick serves the world with his talents, and all of us benefit,” said John Horner, a personal friend.

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