Mar­itime Aquar­ium has a new boss

Ex-com­mu­nity bank­ing ex­ec­u­tive to serve as pres­i­dent and CEO

Connecticut Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Koch

NORWALK — The Mar­itime Aquar­ium at Norwalk has cho­sen a for­mer com­mu­nity bank­ing ex­ec­u­tive from Eas­ton to serve as its new pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

Mau­reen Han­ley, a busi­ness­woman with “ex­ten­sive pro­fes­sional and char­i­ta­ble in­volve­ment in Fair­field County,” was cho­sen by the aquar­ium board of trustees’ ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. She’ll start work Nov. 12 and fo­cus, among other things, on keeping the aquar­ium’s doors open to vis­i­tors as the state re­places the Walk Bridge over the Norwalk River.

“The Walk Bridge project won’t de­fine or con­sume the Mar­itime Aquar­ium. We will do more than just get through this. We will thrive,” Han­ley said in a state­ment. “The aquar­ium has de­vel­oped an ex­cel­lent re­sponse that en­sures the high level of an­i­mal care and guest ex­pe­ri­ence that our vis­i­tors have come to ex­pect. I’m ex­cited to see this through, but to also seek new in­spir­ing ways to tell the Aquar­ium’s story about Long Is­land Sound and to deepen the con­nec­tions be­tween our guests and our an­i­mals.”

The state plans be­gin re­plac­ing the bridge, which bi­sects the aquar­ium, in late 2019 and raze the IMAX Theater to stage the project.

Han­ley, a for­mer com­mu­nity-bank­ing ex­ec­u­tive who spe­cial­ized in com­mer­cial lend­ing, worked as a

se­nior vice pres­i­dent-team leader of United Bank. She pre­vi­ously was vice pres­i­dent, head of com­mer­cial real es­tate, at Fair­field County Bank and se­nior vice pres­i­dent and co-chair­woman of the SNE Di­ver­sity Coun­cil for Com­merce Bank/TD Bank.

Dur­ing her 24-year bank­ing ca­reer, she ne­go­ti­ated bil­lions of dol­lars in loans for com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial pro­jects in Fair­field and Westch­ester coun­ties, and re­ceived nu­mer­ous in­dus­try awards and recog­ni­tion, ac­cord­ing to the aquar­ium.

The se­lec­tion process for a new pres­i­dent be­gan ear­lier this year when Brian Davis an­nounced he would re­turn to the Ge­or­gia Aquar­ium. The Mar­itime Aquar­ium at Norwalk en­listed global ex­ec­u­tivere­cruit­ing firm Korn Ferry to help find a re­place­ment for him.

The aquar­ium board’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee chose Han­ley unan­i­mously at a meet­ing Wed­nes­day. Board Chair­man Michael Wid­land said the aquar­ium will ben­e­fit from Han­ley’s ex­ten­sive busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence in fi­nance, con­struc­tion and change man­age­ment as well as “her broad con­nec­tions in the com­mu­nity.”

“For years, Mau­reen has been an as­set to Fair­field County in so many ways, and we’re thrilled to say that she is now the Mar­itime Aquar­ium’s as­set,” Wid­land said in the state­ment. “She knows the aquar­ium; she knows this com­mu­nity; she knows the peo­ple; she has cel­e­brated lead­er­ship skills; and she un­der­stands the is­sues fac­ing the aquar­ium in the next few years.”

Han­ley’s ar­rival comes as the state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion pre­pares to re­place the 122-year-old rail bridge and tear down the IMAX Theater. In re­sponse to the multi-year con­struc­tion project, the aquar­ium ne­go­ti­ated with state and fed­eral of­fi­cials an agree­ment to build a “func­tional re­place­ment” of the theater and “re­lo­cate and for­tify el­e­ments” of the aquar­ium that will be lost or im­pacted.

Han­ley will be the eighth pres­i­dent of the Aquar­ium and third woman to lead the in­sti­tu­tion, which opened in 1988, houses sharks, seals, sea tur­tles, river ot­ters, jel­ly­fish and other an­i­mals, and draws up to 500,000 vis­i­tors to Norwalk an­nu­ally. A mother of three, she said vis­its to the aquar­ium have been a tra­di­tion for her fam­ily.

“While my new task is to un­der­stand and lead the aquar­ium as its pres­i­dent — I also know it as a mother,” Han­ley said. “I know the im­pact it can have on one child, and on a class­room of stu­dents. We will con­tinue to pur­sue those life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences — for in­di­vid­ual chil­dren, and in ways that con­tinue to help close the achieve­ment gap in our schools.”

Con­trib­uted photo

Mau­reen Han­ley is the new pres­i­dent and CEO of the Mar­itime Aquar­ium in Norwalk.

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