Dr. Kheli R. Willetts – Image Credit:

From The HMAAC

The Houston Museum of African American Culture’s  Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kheli R. Willetts as Chief Executive Officer effective September 1, 2016. The Board’s action comes with the fullest confidence that Willetts will be an excellent steward of HMAAC’s mission and a leader and advocate for the community. The Board recognizes that Willetts is a leader who, with several years’ experience in higher education and museum administration, is the right person to pursue the next phase of growth for the museum.

Before joining the HMAAC family, Willetts had more than 14 years of experience in education and museum administration, including serving as the Executive Director of Syracuse University’s Community Folk Art Center, and as a professor of African American studies at the University. 

Willetts says of her new position, “I am excited to have the opportunity to lead this dynamic institution, one that under the leadership of John Guess, Jr. has actively participated and led discussions on the major cultural trends of our time. This museum has had an extraordinary impact across the country as well as Houston in just six years. With the team I am joining, I expect the museum’s dynamism to continue.”

According to Board President Gina Carroll, “Kheli is a talent we are thrilled to have join us. We know her from her participation in HMAAC’s New York symposium, from her lecturing at HMAAC, from her visits with board members and staff, and from her reputation in the national cultural community. On all accounts, we found her to be outstanding.”

Current CEO John Guess Jr. adds, ”We are excited to have Kheli join us as head of the HMAAC team.  Her leadership and experience are vital to the museum as we work with our community partners and supporters to sustain and continue to strengthen this institution. She understands the importance of culture for underserved communities and the pursuit of our mission, that has allowed us to impact a multicultural audience of visitors from across the country and throughout the world.”

Willetts received her undergraduate and graduate education from Syracuse University.


The mission of the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) is to collect, conserve, explore, interpret, and exhibit the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African Americans in Houston, the state of Texas, the southwest and the African Diaspora for current and future generations. HMAAC explores stories inspired by themes of opportunity, empowerment, creativity, and innovation and cultural interrelationships through the lens of the African American experience.

In fulfilling its mission, HMAAC seeks to invite and engage visitors of every race and background, and to inspire children of all ages through discovery-driven learning. HMAAC is a museum for all people. While our focus is the African American experience, our story in Texas informs and includes not only people of color, but people of all colors.

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