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New Twain House Director Named

Cindy Lovell Works At Author's Boyhood Home In Hannibal, Mo.


January 11, 2013

HARTFORD When Cindy Lovell starts her new job as executive director of The Mark Twain House & Museum, she won't have a big learning curve.

Lovell, who was named to the position this week after a six-month nationwide search, has been teaching others about Hartford's most famous resident at his childhood home in Hannibal, Mo.

"Hannibal and Hartford are the two places he called home the longest," said Lovell, who has been the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum since 2008. "This is the greatest honor I could ever have."

Lovell, 56, was chosen from among almost 50 applicants to replace Jeffrey Nichols, who left in July to become president and CEO of Poplar Forest, a historic home in Lynchburg, Va., that was owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Lovell takes the helm of the Twain House after a difficult stretch. In 2011, a former controller pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1 million from the organization between 2002 and 2010. The thefts deepened financial troubles at the Twain House that began in 2003, when the new $18 million visitor center opened. By 2006 the museum was forced to restructure its debt on the project and received a $3.5 million grant from the state to avoid bankruptcy.

In 2008, facing a $350,000 budget deficit, the Twain House received a $50,000 grant from United Technologies Corp. and a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, but still had to lay off 33 of its 50 employees.

Lovell, who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, said she fell in love with Twain's writings at a young age. As a child she said she was always loaning books by Twain to her friends. Later, her children would teach their friends Twain quotes that they would then surprise her with.

"I've always felt that Twain belongs to the world," said Lovell, who has directed the Mark Twain Young Authors workshop and co-directed the Mark Twain teachers workshops in Hannibal. "I share Twain with everyone I encounter."

Lovell, who first visited the Twain house in Hartford in 1992, said she would like to see the two houses partner on future projects to spread the word about both throughout the country. A shared brochure is a possibility, she said, adding that she worked with Nichols on the effort to create the Mark Twain coin that was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama in December and will benefit four major Twain institutions.

"I want to promote his legacy on a national and international level," said Lovell, who will begin work in March. Patti Philippon, the interim executive director, will continue in that position until then.

Lovell said her proudest accomplishment during her time in Hannibal was an idea that led to the creation of a double CD in 2010 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Twain's death. Titled "Mark Twain: Words and Music," the CD tells the story of Twain's life. It features Clint Eastwood as Twain, Jimmy Buffett as Huck Finn and Garrison Keillor as narrator, and includes songs by Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris and others. Lovell wrote the narrative and served as co-executive producer with Grammy-award winning musician Carl Jackson. All proceeds from the CD benefit the Hannibal museum.

Gregory Boyko, president of the board of trustees of The Mark Twain House & Museum, said in a release Friday that the board was delighted to find someone with Lovell's unique strengths.

"She has a strong track record in fundraising, proven leadership, passion, energy and most important, she has a deep devotion to Mark Twain," Boyko said. "We look forward to working with her to create a greater presence for The Mark Twain House & Museum by building on Mark Twain as an international icon through an increased focus on writing and literature."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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