Coan leaves as Mystic Aquarium CEO
Mystic – The CEO of Mystic Aquarium is out.
The aquarium made the announcement in a late-afternoon Thursday press release that Steve Coan “is completing his tenure” after 16 years in the top spot.
Senior Vice President of Mission Programs Katie Cubina was tapped as interim president and CEO “effective immediately,” according to aquarium spokeswoman Meagan Seacor.
Cubina was first identified publicly as interim CEO three days prior, in a press release for the grand opening of the new Ocean Solutions exhibit. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and officials from multiple federal agencies were among those listed with Cubina as expected guests at the Thursday evening event.
Seacor did not specify exactly when Cubina assumed the interim role.
The aquarium credited Coan with eliminating the $34 million debt he inherited when he took over and rendering the facility net profitable.
Gov. Ned Lamont late Thursday afternoon wished the outgoing CEO the best in his retirement. He lauded Coan for his role in making the facility one of the state’s premier tourist attractions and educational resources.
Lamont’s administration in 2020 aided in a “restructure and reinvestment” plan to keep the operation afloat amid the pandemic. Described as a public-private collaboration, the state provided a $7 million line-of-credit loan while the aquarium raised more than $10 million from private donors, it said at the time, and some of its commercial lenders forgave debt. The state also forgave the balance of a 2013 loan for $3 million.
Board of Trustees Chairman George Milne described Coan as a “transformational leader.”
“Dr. Coan’s involvement with educational efforts nationally for the Boys and Girls Clubs, his championing of conservation efforts involving the Long Island Sound and the offshore canyons and his leadership on policy issues in Hartford and Washington have all made a difference,” Milne said in the release. “We will continue to work hard to live up to the high expectations, potential and impact that have been made possible by Dr. Coan’s unique contributions and leadership.”
Coan in the release thanked the aquarium’s staff, volunteers and board of trustees.
“Most importantly, I would like to thank all those within this great institution who committed themselves to countless rescue efforts of Marine Life over the past twenty years,” he said. “The rescue and rehabilitation of thousands of animals during these years is something of which I am most proud.”
The aquarium found itself in the news over the past year after two whales received in a controversial transport from Marineland Canada died about six months apart. A report by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors has criticized how Mystic Aquarium cared for a 5-year-old male beluga whale in the final hours before his death last August.
In May, an Ohio-based organization that has been successful in its efforts to have research facilities and laboratories fined and in some cases closed due to the mistreatment of animals has filed a complaint against Mystic Aquarium with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The aquarium listed accomplishments under Coan’s direction including establishing international partnerships that include an ongoing relationship with Singapore Aquarium and Resorts World Singapore as well as conservation organizations in Canada, South Africa, and the United States. He also created the early childhood program Sea School and established a national youth mentoring program with Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Coan will serve as CEO emeritus to advise in areas including fundraising and strategic counsel during the transition, according to the press release. He is “considering several options in public service,” the aquarium said.
Coan serves as co-chairman of the Innovation Center in New London and chairman of the State of Connecticut Tourism Advisory Council. He serves the community as chairman of strategic planning for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and holds seats on the boards of the Feinstein Family Foundation and Ben-Veniste Family Foundation.
He was the 2014 winner of the William Crawford Distinguished Service Award from the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.