Founders’ Day 2024: Foundations and Futures | Karen R. Lawrence in Conversation with Lori Bettison-Varga

Join us as Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence sits down with Lori Bettison-Varga, president of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, for a conversation that looks back at The Huntington’s past five years and forward at its strategic aspirations.

The 2024 Founders’ Day program marks The Huntington’s fifth anniversary under the leadership of President Karen R. Lawrence. Lori Bettison-Varga, president of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, sits down with Lawrence to discuss the responsibilities of leading a cultural organization, The Huntington’s recent evolution, and how founders Henry E. and Arabella Huntington’s intention for their collections to be put to use—by researchers, teachers, students, and the wider public—drives The Huntington’s institutional mission today.

The Huntington Store will be open from 5 to 6 p.m. on Feb. 22. If the in-person event sells out, more tickets will be released here as cancellations occur. Additionally, a standby line will open at 5 p.m. on the day of the event.

Doors to Rothenberg Hall will open at 5:30 p.m. The Huntington invites our in-person audience to continue the conversation at an informal reception following the program.

About the Speakers

Karen R. Lawrence

Karen R. Lawrence assumed her position as the ninth president of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in 2018, following a decade as president at Sarah Lawrence College and nine years as dean of the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. She is currently a trustee of the National Humanities Center and has advocated forcefully for the liberal arts throughout her career.

Relevance, access, and diversity have been important themes in President Lawrence’s leadership at The Huntington. She has championed cross-divisional synergies among the library, art museum, and botanical gardens; diversity, equity, and inclusion; strategic partnerships; increased access on-site and online; and key capital projects that will transform the Huntington experience for visitors as well as researchers.

President Lawrence is a well-respected English and Irish literature scholar who has written widely on higher education; 20th-century literature, particularly on James Joyce; women and travel; and experimental writing.

Lori Bettison-Varga, Ph.D.

Lori Bettison-Varga, Ph.D., has led the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County since 2015, overseeing the main site in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. A passionate leader and educator, she cultivates connections for visitors and the public to science, nature, culture, and history.

She is currently leading transformative expansion projects to advance research and public education in urban nature and climate science. These include NHM Commons, a new wing at the Natural History Museum that will serve as a community hub, and the re-imagining of La Brea Tar Pits to help visitors connect discoveries from Ice Age LA to today’s rapidly changing planet.

A geologist by training, Dr. Bettison-Varga previously served six years as president and W.M. Keck Foundation Presidential Chair at Scripps College. She was elected as a 2022 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society.

About Founders’ Day

In 1921, the original Trustees of The Huntington designated Feb. 27—Henry E. Huntington’s birthday—as Founder’s Day. Early Founder’s Day celebrations involved a scholarly talk given to Trustees and their families in the Library. Under the leadership of President Karen R. Lawrence, Founders’ Day—now with a plural possessive—has been expanded to honor Arabella Huntington alongside Henry for their joint roles in envisioning and establishing the institution. Each year, the program explores topics connected to The Huntington and the rich history of its location in the San Gabriel Valley. Recent featured guests include artist Sandy Rodriguez (2021), writer Charles Yu (2022), and graphic designer Silas Munro and curator Pilar Tompkins Rivas (2023).

Founders’ Day is observed annually at The Huntington in honor of Henry E. and Arabella Huntington’s roles in envisioning and establishing the institution.

Foundations and Futures | Karen R. Lawrence in Conversation with Lori Bettison-Varga is presented by the Office of the President.

For visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing, assistive listening devices (ALD), sign language interpretation, and real-time captioning are available for all public events. Please email or call 626-405-3549 at least 10 days in advance of the event to make arrangements.