Allen announces she will retire as Highlands director

Feb. 9—ASHLAND — Carol Rice Allen, executive director of the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, announced her plans to retire from her position during a recent fundraiser that was her brainchild.

Allen announced she will retire as of July 1 during the museum’s annual Dancing With Our Stars, making 10 years of service at the museum.

“I’ve loved every minute of this and thoroughly enjoyed the people I worked with,” Allen said.

Under Allen’s leadership, the museum purchased the building that had been leased; had the exterior of the 95-year-old building preserved, partnered with Morehead State University’s Space Science Center building an exhibit housing three of the satellites MSU had in orbit; became more compliant with the American Disabilities Act; and created the Highlands Center, a 12,500-square-foot space on the fourth floor of the building.

Allen also has overseen a capital campaign to finance a new Discovery Center, a renovation of the mezzanine for exhibit space and initiated virtual learning during school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to Dancing With Our Stars, Allen’s fundraising ideas included Victorian teas, Boo Bash, Hero Con, Bluegrass Bash, Casino Night, Walking with the Past and Derby on Delay.

She said the museum also was honored to have been chosen as one of seven museums in the state to be featured in its Celebration of Kentucky History; the museum was chosen because it demonstrates seven “core values of history.” Allen and curator Heather Whitman appear in a video on the KHS website.

Allen said a search committee for a new director has been formed and announced on the website, and several applicants have been in touch. She said a decision will be made in time to have the new executive director shadow her before taking over.

“It’s a big job now, because we do so many things reaching out to more schools,” she said, noting the ability to network is important to the job.

“The major thing you need is to know your community and be able to work with people,” Allen said. “That takes in a lot of criteria. You need someone who can work with everybody, from businesses to schools to children, and you need to have a knack for planning events. New ideas need to come along; the large events can finance the small events.”

She said outreach projects with schools is something new for the museum and it’s popular.

“We’re doing as many as two a week,” she said. “It costs money, but it’s wonderful we’re able to do it. They are STEAM-related projects. They’re learning a lot and having fun.”

Allen said she plans to visit her grandchildren, all of whom live out of town, more and “on a whim,” as she wishes.

But she said she will continue to live in Ashland and will remain involved.

“I’ve been offered two jobs, but I’m not interested in anything like that,” she said, adding she expects to have more time to spend with friends.

The Ashland native is a teacher at heart, having been among the first teachers at Thomas R. Brown High School in Catlettsburg, later transferring to the Russell school system, from which she retired.

She earned a degree in home economics and vocal music at Eastern Kentucky University and a bachelor of science in consumer and homemaking science and a master’s degree in education.

She has been involved in a variety of volunteer work: She was president of the Greenup County Retired Teachers Association and is a member of the Southern Hills Garden Club, which she said she plans to become more involved in.

Allen, 78, said she appreciates her experience at the museum.

“At 78, I’m very blessed with pretty good health, but I kinda want to grow old now,” she said. “But I won’t stop. I’ll be out there doing stuff.”

She added she likes to be active, especially in education.

“It has a very enriching experience for me to be associated with the museum,” she said. “The people, the board, the staff, the Friends of the Highlands, the volunteers are all extraordinary.”

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