Marie Mattson, a senior leader at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, caps off a 20 year-career working with the Kennedy Center Honors and other major events to join Georgetown as its new university secretary.
Mattson says the rapper, who was among the 2017 Kennedy Center Honorees Dec. 3, congratulated her after Kennedy Center board of trustees chair David Rubenstein thanked her for the two decades she served as senior vice president for development, special events and volunteers.
“[LL Cool J] congratulated me later that evening when we were on the elevator together,” she explains. “It was so kind of him to remember me.”
The rapper and actor was one of the many artists she has met managing hundreds of events each year at the Kennedy Center, including the Spring Gala, the Washington National Opera opening nights, the National Symphony Orchestra Ball, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Mattson started at Georgetown on Dec. 4, a few hours after the filming of Kennedy Center Honors wrapped.
During her tenure at the Kennedy Center, Mattson worked to strengthen the engagement of board of trustees’ members, grew annual support from $20 million to $85 million annually, and managed the Center’s first Capital Campaign for $175 million.
In her new role at Georgetown she will work closely with the university’s board of directors and board chair William J. Doyle (C’72) along with the president and senior leadership in governing the university.
“Being the liaison for the board of directors and the president at a university puts me in a different kind of role, but it’s one in which I’m familiar,” Mattson says. “The relationship building, communication and strategy all work together to enhance board engagement that, in turn, leads to advancing the university’s mission.”
Mattson succeeds longtime university secretary Edward Quinn (SFS’73), who had served in the position since January 2000. Quinn will continue to serve Georgetown in a part-time capacity and offer assistance during the transition.
“Ed Quinn has done such an amazing job that it’s a little daunting to follow him in this position. He has such a legacy here,” she says. “I’m very grateful that he’s around to mentor me in these first few weeks.”
Prior to her service at the Kennedy Center, Mattson worked closely with the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to support the work of the institution’s board of regents.
She says she became interested in development in 1985 after becoming a project manager for the Smithsonian’s “Information Age” exhibition at the National Museum of American History.
After a two-year term as special assistant to the Smithsonian’s Secretary, Mattson went on to become director of membership and development for the entire institution from 1991 to 1997.
During her tenure, annual contributions rose from $25 million to $50 million. She and her office also secured an additional $55 million in sponsorships for the Smithsonian’s 150th Anniversary Celebration in 1996.
“I originally was in engineering doing computer work in the 1970s with the Department of Defense,” says the Philadelphia native, who studied engineering at Drexel University and computer science at Wayne State University in Detroit. “I was really lucky to have the opportunity to work with computers in the early days.”
Initially hired by the Smithsonian for her background in computer science, Mattson was told she needed to raise money for the exhibit.
“I was totally fascinated that they were willing to trust me to raise all the money for this exhibition when I had zero experience,” she recalls. “So eventually I hired someone else to do the computer work, and I started raising money.”
As a “loyal observer” of Georgetown, Mattson believes her role as university secretary will be a rewarding experience.
“I wasn’t looking for a new job,” she says, “but to have the opportunity to do something that was really gratifying and significant to my skillset, working at Georgetown seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
She says she admires the commitment of the Georgetown board of directors toward advancing the institution.
“Georgetown is really blessed with an excellent board,” Mattson says. “They are just all really committed to Georgetown’s mission and goals. It’s really exciting to work with a board that is so committed.”