W. Richard West Jr. CEO Autry Museum of the American West

W. Richard West Jr. CEO Autry Museum of the American West

W. Richard West Jr., the president and chief executive of the Autry Museum of the American West, has announced plans to retire in June 2021.

The museum, located in Griffith Park, said on Sept. 8 that West will remain on board until next June in order to provide a smooth transition through the coronavirus pandemic.

West will be succeeded by UCLA professor Stephen Aron, who has served on the UCLA faculty since 1996. For much of that period Aron held concurrent appointments as Executive Director of the Institute of the American West and Chairman of Western History at the Autry. 

Aron will retire from UCLA and become Professor Emeritus in June 2021.

West was appointed to lead the Autry in 2012. A citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, he previously served as a native rights lawyer and founding director and director emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. 

During West's tenure at the Autry he has raised $70 million, the museum said in a statement.

West has overseen virtual programs for the public during the Covid-19 crisis, including “Collecting Community History Initiative: The West During Covid-19” and “Black Lives Matter Protests,” a collection of posters and other ephemera from the social movement by Associate Curator Tyree Boyd-Pates.

The museum was co-founded in 1988 as the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum by Western singing star Gene Autry and his wife, Jackie, along with Joanne and Monty Hale, another so-called "singing cowboy" star.

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