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After 12 years leading one of Southern California's major cultural institutions, Steven S. Koblik said he will be retiring as president of the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. Koblik is scheduled to step down June 30, 2015.
Koblik's tenure, which began in 2001, has seen great changes to the Huntington, with new buildings, renovations, additional gardens and a $123-million gift from the late Frances Brody that has helped to bolster the institution's finances.
In an interview, Koblik said that his decision to leave the Huntington was largely personal. "I will be 73 this year. I'm still very healthy. Things are going in exciting directions. I thought it was a good time to say thank you," he said.
Koblik said the Huntington is in the early stages of its next five-year strategic planning cycle. "My first responsibility is to ensure the planning process is a success," he said.
"I have 15 months left and I intend to push as hard as I can."
Koblik said the Huntington is in a significantly better place financially than when he joined in 2001. The organization said it raised approximately $700 million during his tenure.
"You cannot run a nonprofit running up debt," he said. "At some point, you have to turn the red into black."
Koblik served as president of Reed College in Portland, Ore., for a decade before coming to the Huntington. Before that, he was dean of the faculty at Scripps College in Claremont.
During his tenure at the Huntington, Koblik has overseen dramatic changes to the institution's buildings and grounds, including a major renovation of the Huntington Art Gallery in 2008. The organization also opened its Chinese Garden in 2008. Three new features will open March 8, and more work on the second phase of the garden is in the planning.
Koblik said approximately $10 million still needs to be raised to finish work on the Chinese Garden.
The Huntington said that its endowment grew during Koblik's tenure from $153 million in 2001 to $450 million by December. A good portion of that came from the Brody gift, which was originally announced to be more than $100 million, and has now been valued at $123 million.
Koblik said that Brody's gift included many tangible items whose values were determined after the bequest was announced. He said that all but $15 million of the gift went to the Huntington's endowment. Some of the money from the gift went to restoring salary reductions that the Huntington put in place five years ago to address a budget shortfall.
"We want to offer competitive salaries," he said.
For the fiscal year ending in 2012, Koblik received $414,553 in compensation from the Huntington, according to tax documents.
Koblik lives on the grounds of the Huntington, a perk that comes with the job. But he said he also owns three private residences around Southern California. He has been married for more than four decades.
During his tenure, the Huntington also saw a gift of $32 million from Berkshire Hathaway's Charles Munger. The money is going toward the construction of the museum's $60-million new education and visitors center, which includes a new entrance, which is expected to open in 2015.
When asked what he plans to do after he retires, Koblik said that he has a number of writing projects, including a book idea.
The Huntington said that Koblik will work with the Huntington’s five-member board of trustees as it organizes the search process to find a successor.
For the record, 1:53 pm: An earlier version of this story stated that Koblik said the Huntington faced persistent annual deficits. The organization has not run a deficit during Koblik's tenure.
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