WWBA Announces the Retirement of Executive Director Cynthia Shor


Dear Friends,

After serving as Executive Director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (WWBA) since 2006, I am announcing my retirement on May 1, 2024.  I want to express my gratitude for all the support I’ve received during my rewarding tenure here.  I am proud of the growth of the Association and I am confident that it is poised to thrive in the coming years.  

The Trustees and I are delighted to announce that Caitlyn Shea has been selected as the new Executive Director – please extend to her the commitment you have given to me. 

I arrived just in time for the 2008 recession, and I am leaving a few years after the worldwide COVID pandemic.  Throughout it all, due to the generous support from NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP), from Suffolk County and The Town of Huntington, the historic Birthplace doors never closed to our local, national and international visitors.  With the outstanding work of the staff, volunteers, interns, sponsors, donors and you, our members and stakeholders near and far, the Trustees and I have had the privilege of stewarding this State Historic Site through many seasons of improvement and growth. 

Our responsive governance focused on building fiscal stability, establishing organizational structure and expanding programs and membership. We are immensely proud that our funding and grants have doubled in the last ten years which propels us in our mission to preserve and promote the legacy of America’s great poet, Walt Whitman. Additional fundraising activities enabled us to complete a $160,000 exhibit renovation in 2018, establish an annual Gwenn A. Nusbaum/Whitman Scholarship for Emerging Poets in 2021, and initiate an Endowment Fund in 2023. 

We established two new positions, Event Director and Administrator, as our operations grew.  We instituted a Museum Studies program managed by a dedicated Curator which annually serves over 15 career-oriented Interns, some receiving college credit and recognized with Gardiner Foundation grants. Our collections have tripled to approximately 6,000 items. In 2018, we received 290 Whitman related books, dedicated as The Gould/Feinstein Whitman Library.  Our Whitman library collection is second only to the Library of Congress in volume. 

The centerpiece of our collection is the Whitman Bible, inscribed by Whitman and given to his sister, Mary Elizabeth in 1878.  Donated in 2014 by a descendant of Mary Elizabeth, we are proud to announce that her seventh-generation grandson, and likewise as Whitman’s nephew, will be joining our Board. Other organizational milestones include our Literary Landmark designation in 2014, a Whitman postage stamp issued in 2019 commemorating Walt’s 200th birthday, publication of a Whitman cookbook, and inaugural publications of two student poetry anthologies in 2024.  

Our Programs have tripled in number and highlights include: a visit in 2016 by Cheng Hong, wife of China’s Prime Minister; our first Whitman International Conference in 2019; a CUNY Partnership now in its 10th season; our “Walking With Whitman Series,” a Poetry in Performance initiative in its 14th season.  Our Covid silver lining incorporated Zoom technology which brings over 60 Whitman scholars and international poets to our virtual stage each year. Our DEI goals are strongly supported by Humanities NY, NYSCA, and Poets & Writers. Collaborating with over 40 community organizations, we identified a new membership level which attracts over 25 Long Island Libraries and their patrons. 

I want to thank the NY State Parks Commissioner, the Office of Parks and the Regional Long Island Director and staff who expertly maintain this historic Whitman Birthplace.  I was fortunate to work with such dedicated preservationists.  I also want to thank the elected officials of Suffolk County and The Town of Huntington who generously support the Birthplace in honor of their Native Son.

It has been a continuing pleasure to collaborate with all my colleagues from the museums, historic associations, universities, schools and libraries – I thank you for working tirelessly with me for cultural literacy.

My first love is poetry writing, which originally brought me to the Birthplace, so I want to thank all the Long Island Poets, and Poets beyond, for their contributions to our programs and their belief in the power of poems.

My second love combines literature and history, so I sincerely thank all the scholars and writers I had the honor to meet, and to be inspired by, during my tenure here.  Keep walking in Walt’s footsteps!

And to my third love, the Walt Whitman Birthplace, I bid Adieu!

The Trustees and I believe the Association is well positioned for new strategic growth. They have exciting and ambitious plans for our future.  Please extend your “comradeship” to the new Director as you have to me.

With sincere thanks and warm appreciation,

Cynthia Shor

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”   -WW