GLBT Historical Society gets new ED

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Wednesday January 20, 2016
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The GLBT Historical Society, which collects archival materials and operates the gay history museum in the Castro, announced this week that it's selected a new executive director.

Terry Beswick, 56, who since 2009 has been a principal leader at the Castro Country Club, a sober space that hosts 12-step groups, will take over at the historical society in February.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to have this opportunity," Beswick said in a January 19 news release from the historical society. "I have been inspired by the important contributions and the people of the GLBT Historical Society and I plan to work tirelessly to ensure the organization's continued success and growth. Our diverse communities are so rich with the stories, the archives and the artifacts of our struggles and our triumphs. It's essential that we preserve these stories, interpret them and make them accessible today and for future generations."

Beswick, a gay, HIV-positive Castro resident, is a longtime AIDS activist who was also once an assistant editor at the Bay Area Reporter . He takes over from Paul Boneberg, another AIDS activist who was the longtime historical society executive director. Boneberg announced his departure last April amid calls for his resignation. He had been criticized for his leadership and donor relations.

The historical society last year marked its 30th anniversary. The GLBT History Museum is set to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

Brian Turner, the historical society's board co-chair, said in an email blast that Beswick "is enthusiastic about queer history and promises to bring a new era of growth and vision to the GLBT Historical Society."

Turner added, "We are very much looking forward to working with Terry to strengthen our financial base (operating in San Francisco means there's never enough money!) and move the archives to its new home (stand by for exciting details). And we'll of course be working together to grow our organization and expand our amazing programs that serve you and society at large by collecting, preserving and telling stories of the GLBT past in resonant ways."

According to the society's news release, among other achievements, Beswick co-founded ACT UP/San Francisco in the 1980s, and he was the first national coordinator of the national ACT UP network, known as ACT NOW.

While Beswick was the Country Club's manager, the nonprofit "saw an eight-fold increase in annual operating revenue and eliminated a long-running deficit," according to the historical society. "At the same time, Beswick spearheaded a capital campaign funded by small donations and in-kind contributions, and planned and implemented a complete renovation of the facility's interior."

In a text exchange, Marke Bieschke, a historical society spokesman, declined to make Beswick available for a phone interview, saying, "We'd like to give Terry a few weeks to settle in and learn more about the organization" first. Bieschke offered to have Beswick email responses to general questions, but the B.A.R. strives to avoid email interviews.

Asked about Beswick's salary, however, Bieschke provided a response from the group's new leader that said, "The executive director salary is based on half-time employment to start, at $42,500 annually, plus benefits. The goal is to go to full-time within six-12 months, depending on our success with fundraising for all the society's needs during that period."

The historical society has a budget of about $571,000, according to its tax documents for 2013.

Beswick is still working at the Country Club. John Cunningham, a board member of the nonprofit, said in an email that assistant managers Louis Cullen and Billy Lemon "will be assuming the operating responsibilities during the period of the search for Terry's replacement," and a meeting was planned for Tuesday night "to discuss the strategy moving forward."

Beswick will be available at the museum's fifth anniversary celebration �" "I Love History" �" 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, January 29 at the museum, 4127 18th Street.