Duo to Replace Retiring Long Island Museum Director Neil Watson

Executive Director of the Long Island Museum, Neil Watson (center) with his successors, Joshua Ruff (left) and Sarah Abruzzi (right)
Executive Director of the Long Island Museum, Neil Watson (center) with his successors, Joshua Ruff (left) and Sarah Abruzzi (right)
Kristin Cuomo

Two staff members of Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum are set to be promoted to the position of executive director and split duties this fall. This shift in personnel comes following last month’s announcement that current Director Neil Watson will be retiring in October.

By the time he makes his exit, Watson will have spent more than nine years in the position and has made a lasting impact on both the museum and community at large through multiple changes and initiatives. Alongside his announcement, the LIM’s Board of Trustees also announced that he’ll be succeeded by Deputy Directors Joshua Ruff and Sarah Abruzzi.

“We’re so thankful and so happy with what Neil has achieved, he’s done so much during his time here,” says Ruff. “But with that being said, Sarah and I have learned so much from him and we’re ready to move forward into the future with what we’re planning.”

Watson’s tenure with the LIM began in November 2013 after serving as the executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in Westchester County for nearly eight years. Since then, the LIM has reopened the History Museum, created new programs and memberships revolving around music and art, and increased both its operating budget and the museum’s endowment funds significantly.

One such program that was spearheaded by Watson is known as LIMarts, a collaborative arts group designed to create a new forum for local artists. This membership offered space for exhibitions, events, lectures and other opportunities for more than 100 members. Their most recent exhibit, titled Fragile, concluded in December.

“When I got there in 2013, I was really trying to open the program up to the public as much as we could,” says Watson. “I wanted people to come in and experience the museum in ways that might not have been possible before.”

Going forward, Watson has full faith in Ruff’s and Abruzzi’s ability to lead the charge. Ruff has held many titles during his 25 years with the museum, which includes his current three-year stint as Deputy Director. Abruzzi has been with the LIM for the last five years and had also served as the capital campaign coordinator from 2008 until 2009. Both have shown extensive dedication to the museum and look to continue Watson’s legacy.

“Josh and I are honored to be a special part of Neil’s legacy and look forward to continuing his tradition of honest, inclusive and transparent leadership in service of the Museum, our colleagues, and the community we all care so deeply about,” said Abruzzi in a press release last month.

When Watson officially passes the torch in October, Ruff will become responsible for collections and programming, while Abruzzi will be in charge of operations.

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