Press Release


Gabrielle Lyon, a nationally recognized nonprofit leader, educator and author experienced in launching and scaling organizations, is the new executive director of Illinois Humanities. She begins her tenure on June 1, 2019.

“We are thrilled to have Gabrielle’s leadership,” said Mae P. Hong, Illinois Humanities’ board chairperson.  “She brings a rare and unique combination of skills, experiences, and passions to Illinois Humanities at a pivotal juncture in our organization’s growth.  And she is eager to leverage the humanities as a tool to build bridges across differences.”

Throughout her career, Lyon has led organizations that level the playing field of educational opportunity – particularly in science, technology, civic education and urban planning. She was the founding executive director of Project Exploration, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the face of science for youth and girls of color that she led for 12 years. She also founded Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative to support Chicago’s young people, and launched Lyon-Strategies LLC, a strategic planning and program design firm. Most recently, she served as the vice president of Education and Experience at the Chicago Architecture Center.  She is currently a senior researcher at the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Illinois Humanities has accomplished so much in its many decades,” said Lyon. “We can build on this legacy to enable honest debate, documentation, and delight about who we were, who we are, and who we want to become in Illinois. It’s an incredible moment to be part of this vital organization.”

Lyon, who has served as an adjunct lecturer on innovation and entrepreneurship in Kellogg School of Management, holds a doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago. She is the author of No Small Plans, a graphic novel that follows the adventures of teens in Chicago’s past, present and future designed to ignite urban planning and civic engagement and is the co-editor of A Simple Justice: The Challenge of Small Schools.  She and her two children reside in Hyde Park.