National Aquarium

National Aquarium Leadership Team

National Aquarium - John Racanelli

John C. Racanelli
Chief Executive Officer

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As chief executive officer, John Racanelli leads a team of 600 full and part-time employees and 1,000 volunteers in pursuing the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. More than 1.3 million people annually visit the Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, while millions more are touched by the Aquarium’s education programs, outreach activities, social media campaigns and conservation initiatives.

A passionate advocate for the ocean, John strives to drive conservation action worldwide, ensure the success of one of the nation’s leading aquarium enterprises, and fundamentally change the way the world views the ocean and aquatic systems.

John joined the National Aquarium in July 2011 after 10 years as president of Racanelli Partners, Inc. The San Francisco-based consulting firm served the needs of nonprofit leaders nationally and globally, focusing on cultural and conservation organizations including Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Surfrider Foundation.

After co-founding Mission Blue with author and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, John assisted her in developing and launching Google Ocean, Google’s most significant enhancement of Google Earth, the most popular earth visualization tool in existence.

Prior to founding his firm, John spent 16 years in leadership positions at U.S. aquariums. He was the first CEO of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, where he built the facility, team and vision for Tampa Bay’s leading cultural attraction. He also served for nine years on the leadership team of the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium as its vice president of marketing and development, joining the aquarium a year before its opening. While in college, John began his career as a diver and aquarist, an experience that he credits with giving him great appreciation for the work of everyone on the aquarium team.

Fluent in Spanish, John holds a degree in strategic management from Dominican University of California. He is a SCUBA diver, open-water swimmer, sailor and surfer. His weekly radio show and podcast on WYPR public radio, “A Blue View,” explores important issues related to the aquatic world. John and his family are proud residents of Canton, Baltimore’s historic waterfront district.

Bruce Hoffberger 

Bruce Hoffberger
Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

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As chief financial officer of the National Aquarium, Bruce Hoffberger oversees Finance and Accounting, Information Technology, Administrative Affairs,risk management, and contractual relationships.

Before joining the National Aquarium, he was treasurer and chief financial officer of the Enterprise Foundation, Inc. (now called Enterprise Community Partners), an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization focused on supportive housing. Prior to that, he was vice president and chief financial officer of Zurich Personal Insurance, a business unit of Zurich Group, and audit partner with Ernst & Young. In addition, as a certified public accountant, he has actively worked with nonprofit organizations as a volunteer and as an independent financial consultant.

A lifelong Baltimore-area resident, Bruce earned a B.S. in accounting from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Miami.

He has volunteered and held offices in various nonprofit institutions for more than 25 years, including the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; the Advisory Board for the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland; National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Maryland Chapter; Sinai Hospital; the Jewish Volunteer Connection; and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore.

He is a past president of the Hoffberger Foundation, Inc., which is dedicated to responding to unmet needs in the greater Baltimore community and supporting initiatives in Israel.

When not working, Bruce enjoys flying, road biking, classical music, and reading fiction. He and his wife, Caren, live in Pikesville with their children, Corie and Bret, and their rescued cats.

Kathy Sher

Kathy A. Sher
Senior Vice President/External Affairs

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Kathy Sher, Deputy Director of External Affairs, has been with the Aquarium for more than 30 years. Her Aquarium experience includes executive management and administration, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, visitor services, retail management, and private consulting. Her duties have also included direction and management of auxiliary revenue areas, development, corporate sponsorship, membership, retail, and food service.

Currently her focus is directed toward public funding for the Aquarium’s complex multimillion-dollar capital improvements. She also serves as a liaison to the National Aquarium Board of Directors and the community.

Widely experienced in the fundraising and marketing of nonprofit attractions, Kathy has served as a consultant for many institutions, including the Audubon Zoological Park in New Orleans, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and the South Carolina Aquarium.

In her External Affairs role, the Aquarium has increased its already strong commitment to the citizens of the City and State. She serves on a number of statewide and community boards, including the Governor’s Maryland Tourism Development Board, the American Visionary Art Museum Board, and the Aspire Fundraising Committee for the benefit of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

Kathy has been a pioneer in mentoring other women and helping them to establish themselves in their fields. She has a B.S. degree from Edinboro College and an M.S. degree from Duquesne University. She lives in Ruxton with her husband.

Dale Schmidt

Dale Schmidt
Senior Vice President/Chief Operating Officer

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As a member of the Aquarium’s senior leadership team, Dale Schmidt is responsible for capital planning, exhibit development, guest services, safety, food services, facilities maintenance and retail services.

Dale has more than 30 years of experience working for accredited zoological organizations. He served as President and CEO of the Columbus Zoological Association; President and CEO of Oregon Coast Aquarium; Executive Director of Clearwater Marine Aquarium; and Vice President of Operations of The Florida Aquarium. He has also worked in operations for such organizations as John Shawn Productions, Inc.; Universal Studios Florida; and Busch Entertainment Corporation.

Dale, who recently served as chair of the Business Operations Special Committee for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from the University of South Florida. He also completed a leadership program at the Stanford Nonprofit Management Institute and served as Vice Chairman of the Zoo and Aquarium Committee for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.  


Eric Schwaab
Senior Vice President/Chief Conservation Officer

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As Chief Conservation Officer, Eric Schwaab provides strategic vision and leadership for the National Aquarium’s Conservation and Science Division, a team of 130 professionals, engaging in initiatives ranging from field conservation and biological programs to legislative advocacy and animal rescue.

Eric most recently served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role he works closely with Congress, other agency leaders, partner organizations and local communities to develop policies and take conservation action to ensure sustainable federal fisheries, promote coastal stewardship and enhance protection of ocean habitats. Previously, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA from 2010-2012, Eric directed the National Marine Fisheries Service. He was responsible for science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. Eric led the agency’s national requirement to end overfishing, the implementation of “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.

Prior to his work with NOAA, Eric spent three years as Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he worked extensively with legislative leaders and other agencies to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest and park land conservation and fisheries rebuilding. Eric’s 20 plus years of conservation stewardship in Maryland also include service as Director of the Fisheries Service (1999-2003); Director of the Forest, Wildlife & Heritage Service (1995-1999); Director of the Forest Service (1992-1995); and Chief of Resource Management for Maryland Forest & Park Service (1989-1992). From 2003 into 2007, Eric served as Resource Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, coordinating conservation work on behalf of fish and wildlife agencies across North America.

Eric, who served as the NOAA Administrator designee on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from McDaniel College and a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. He also completed a leadership program for senior executives in state and local government at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Marisa Wigglesworth

Marisa Wigglesworth
Senior Vice President/Chief Philanthropy Officer

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As Senior Vice-President and Chief Philanthropy Officer (CPO) of the National Aquarium, Marisa Wigglesworth is responsible for all development functions, including capital and annual operating fundraising, and will play an integral role in setting long-term strategies for all aspects of the Aquarium’s operations and future.

Marisa came to National Aquarium having served as Vice President for Development and External Affairs since 2008 at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where she led all aspects of the Institute’s fundraising and corporate communications efforts, including a capital campaign that exceeded its $60M goal by nearly $5M. She previously served as Director of Major Gifts and Development Information Systems, Assistant Director of Development for Research and Development at The Franklin Institute from 1998 to 2003.

With a deeply-held enthusiasm for the importance of philanthropy and its ability to empower and energize people, Marisa strives to create donor-focused fundraising opportunities through which individuals and organizations can make meaningful investments that forward their values.

Marisa’s previous professional roles include Chief Development Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters International, and Vice President of Development for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She holds a B.A. in English and Communications from Rutgers University and an M.A. in Recreation Service and Resource Management from New York University. Marisa is a member of the Development and Membership Committee of the American Alliance of Museums, and is recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as a Certified Fundraising Executive.

National Aquarium - Margot Amelia

Margot Amelia
Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer

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Margot Amelia brings more than 25 years of marketing experience to the National Aquarium leadership team. As senior vice president and chief marketing officer, she is responsible for the development and execution of the Aquarium’s marketing plan to achieve financial and strategic objectives.

Before joining the Aquarium, Margot served as executive director for the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, where she was responsible for marketing the state of Maryland as a destination. Her consumer-driven marketing strategies—which targeted key feeder markets through digital and traditional marketing channels—resulted in record-breaking years of visitation, visitor spending and state sales tax revenue in Maryland. She also launched the Maryland Green Tourism certification program in 2009.

Prior to the Maryland Office of Tourism, Margot worked for the Baltimore Convention and Visitors Association (now known as Visit Baltimore); for GKV (Gray Kirk Vansant Advertising) in various management positions; for Smith Burke & Azzam; and for Amelia & Associates.

Margot earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently sits as vice chair on the National Council of State Travel Directors and serves on the Board of Capital Region USA, the international marketing alliance between Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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Corporate Memberships

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