Next spring, history will be made when Sean M. Decatur takes the reins as the new president of the American Museum of Natural History. The institution announced the appointment on Tuesday evening.

Decatur will be institution's first Black president when his tenure starts on April 3, 2023. He succeeds Ellen V. Futter, who has served as president since 1993 and will step down in March.

Decatur said being the first Black person in a science space is something that predates this particular position.

“It's something that's been a theme not only throughout my career, but actually my time as a student,” he told Gothamist on Wednesday. “I think that the museum is really a place that can help to continue to move forward and change the broader public perception about who our scientists can be, and begin to overturn some of the long-standing stereotypes and images of who does science and who science is for.”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Decatur earned his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, and a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from Stanford University. Following a series of distinguished posts in science, administration and education, he has spent the last decade as president of Kenyon College, a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio.

Decatur’s position at the museum represents his first time leading a cultural organization.

"He brings to the museum the expertise in scientific research, passion for teaching and learning, and deep commitment to outreach and diversity that are central to the museum’s mission," Scott L. Bok, chair of the institution's board of trustees, said in a statement. "His thoughtful leadership will benefit the museum, the city of New York and the entire museum community."

Decatur noted that the biggest challenges he will face when he steps into the new role include guiding the museum through its continuing pandemic recovery; making the most of the new Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation when it opens early next year; and broadening the accessibility of the science and research done at the museum.

“I certainly plan on spending my initial time there listening, learning and synthesizing all that information to chart what the next steps and paths are for the museum to come,” he said.

The “buzz and energy” of the museum are what most excites him about his new job.

“It’s just a place where there is excitement happening on all levels,” Decatur said, “from little kids who are kind of running around in amazement, looking at the dinosaurs, to the really interesting and provocative descriptions of the impact of climate change on biodiversity. Being able to be a part of that on a daily basis is something that I'm really looking forward to."