Editor’s note: These contributions have been edited for length.
Barbara J. Silzle
Executive Director, Philadelphia Cultural Fund
I'd describe my relationship with Cecelia as primarily being a fan. A long time, unabashed, grateful fan.
Cecelia has been a unique, incredible, long-time visionary for the arts in Philadelphia, developing the arts managers of tomorrow (well, now today!), and artists. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Cecelia for her tireless vision, multi-tasking and leadership. When she signs on to a project she invests herself wholeheartedly. She is not one to phone it in. I've known her as a colleague for many years, from my time leading the Leeway Foundation and now as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and I've watched her achieve the level of impact that most of us can only dream of having—for our city and an entire sector.
Her generosity with her time, energy, intelligence, vision and authentic caring has been a wonder to behold. While she has accomplished so much, she seems to me to be lowkey, far from boastful, and is not one to throw around or remind us of her power and authority. That's dedication to the work. As an ardent fan, I will miss her terribly at Moore. But something tells me she's not done making a contribution to the arts. I can't wait to see what's next. Nothing would surprise me. And I will be forever grateful.
Former Chief Marketing Officer, Moore College of Art & Design
Cecelia and I have a long and wonderful history. From our time together in Wilmington, DE, to Drexel University's Arts Administration program, where I taught for 14 years, to her consummate leadership at the helm of Moore College of Art & Design, I've always known her to be a cherished, supportive and thoughtful friend and colleague. She and I get together regularly for stimulating conversations about this and that and to share recipes. We're often on the same wavelength.
Cecelia has always left a lasting impression on all those with whom she's worked and on the organizations with which she's been affiliated. Known for her transformational approach to leadership, her influence has led to developing strategic approaches that have pushed people to think beyond the usual and to consider the "big picture" possibilities.
Under Cecelia's leadership, Moore has transformed its profile beyond a regional art and design college to one that is recognized internationally. A strong believer in including shareholders (staff, faculty, board, students, alumni) in strategic planning, short and long term institutional goals were developed that helped to shape Moore. As a result, Moore's educational programs were strengthened and enriched, students' needs and amenities were enhanced and financial goals, including an increased endowment and a highly successful capital campaign, were met and often surpassed.
Philadelphia's arts scene has been shaped, in part, because of Cecelia and the lives of those she's touched. Under her leadership, students from the Drexel Arts Administration program have gone on to hold senior management positions both here and around the country. Moore's alumni are employed in the creative sector in Philadelphia and beyond. Cecelia is always in demand! Her Board affiliations with the Cultural Alliance, Parkway Council and others, as well as her much sought after advice as a thought leader, are evidence of this.
President & CEO, The Mann Center for the Performing Arts
Cecelia Fitzgibbon and I are great colleagues, and she is a true treasured friend. We have known each other for over 14 years now.
Cecelia has been a lightning rod and powerful force for good in our nation’s arts and culture industry. The impact of her dynamic leadership has been experienced by many throughout her impressive and varied career. Not only in academia where she helped train the superstars of tomorrow, who go on to fill crucial high-level jobs in the arts and music industry, but in her earlier career at varied state arts agencies. Cecelia set the highest possible standards and held the bar high. In setting such a high bar, she led the way forward for this field, in helping to advance arts funding and policy making, and the legacy of her work is still felt today. Her transformative work at Moore College of Art & Design speaks for itself. The College is one of the stellar shining stars on our own Philadelphia Champs-Elysees (the Parkway).
Through her passionate leadership in serving on the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Board, Parkway Council and other essential civic groups, she has left an indelible and creative mark. She is tenacious, honest, savvy, smart, extremely funny, and has more common sense in her little finger than most can hope to have in a lifetime. Cecelia exudes integrity, grit, compassion and determination. They truly broke the mold with Cecelia, and all those who know her are the better for it. I for one count myself as very lucky to be in her orbit. Brava to Cecelia on her well-deserved retirement and look out sunny Florida—here she comes!!
Professor, Department Head of Performing Arts, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University
Cecelia was my Department Head at Drexel when I was a tenure track faculty member and she mentored me through getting tenure. I always felt genuinely respected and supported by her. We continue to be friends and colleagues.
Cecelia continues to be one of the most impressive people I have ever worked with and a role model. She is a fearless advocate for the arts, a powerful fundraiser and a genuinely thoughtful, caring woman. I was sad to lose her at Drexel but believe that holding the position of College President was a role she was destined to have. She is a natural leader who has honed her leadership skills through many years of hard work and dedication.
Providing leadership to education in the arts is an impactful way to support the longevity and innovation of the arts community in Philadelphia. Cecelia has taken on long-term leadership at two different post-secondary institutions where she has supported both the performing and visual arts across the city.
I have so many memories, I can’t really pick one that exemplifies our relationship! I will say that I was a freelance artist when I came to be on her faculty, and she taught me by her example how to be member of a college faculty; one who is productive, outspoken and values the personal relationships that are formed by working on something meaningful together.
I have always been so profoundly impressed with how Cecelia has been able to work with complete passion and commitment for so long. She was a woman in a position of power and authority at Drexel when there were few women in those roles and her strength, intelligence and competence are still the model I have for how to do my job.
Chief of Staff, Moore College of Art & Design
Cecelia was my department chair and program director in graduate school at Drexel University’s Arts Administration program (and prior to that my department chair in undergrad). Over the past 20 years, Cecelia has evolved from being my professor, mentor and supervisor, to now my dear friend. She’s guided me throughout my studies and my career.
Cecelia, along with the support and collaboration of her colleagues, has elevated Moore over the past decade. Launching the rebrand, expanding the admissions policy, growing the endowment, landing the largest single donation in Moore’s history, spearheading new programs…I could go on!
Cecelia has inspired thousands of arts leaders across Philadelphia and beyond. And she will continue to be impactful, even after she retires, through the leaders she’s helped shape throughout her accomplished, decades-long career dedicated to the arts.
Cecelia is a tough, but fair leader. She challenges you. To think. To be strategic. To make an impact. To persevere. And to always DWYSYWD (do what you say you will do).
President & CEO, Please Touch Museum
Cecelia is a trusted friend, colleague and mentor. When I came into my role at the Please Touch Museum, she was one of the first leaders in the arts and culture sector to reach out to me. She invited me to lunch in her office and we had a long conversation that touched on many topics. I always had the sense that she was watching over me and quietly encouraging me to think big and be bold.
Cecelia sets a high bar for herself. Her commitment to integrity and excellence in all that she does has been an inspiration to so many of us. If you look up the words “legendary leader” you would most certainly find her name at the top of the list of individuals whose career meets the merits of both of those words.
What I love the most about Cecelia is her sharp wit, her sense of humor and her zest for life.
Leslie Anne Miller
The Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation
I have known and worked with Cecelia in a variety of ways over the years: in her role as President of Moore; in the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Parkway Council, among others. We share a commitment to the advancement of women and the importance of arts and culture in Philadelphia.
Cecelia’s stellar career history speaks for itself. Wherever she has been and whatever she has done, her leadership, vision and hard work have always combined to create improved and thriving organizations. Her legacy is remarkable for its depth and breadth.
Cecelia has been at the forefront of the move to strengthen the role of arts and culture in Philadelphia. As President of Moore, her priority was to strengthen the curriculum to train women for meaningful careers in the arts and to empower them to expand their horizons as they pursued their life goals. As a leader of the arts and culture sector, she was a tireless advocate for its members and for its recognition as a major economic engine in the region.
My enduring memory of Cecelia will be her determination to not let a major health setback deter her commitment to Moore, to the city’s arts and culture community or to her family and friends. The grit, grace and good cheer that she exhibited throughout her recovery was truly inspiring. She is an example for us all.
Cecelia’s larger-than-life persona, career accomplishments and contributions to civic life leave an indelible imprint in many places as she retires from Moore. While she soon closes a chapter in her life, I have no doubt that she will quickly open another, as her remarkable journey continues. I, like many, look forward to following her—wherever she goes!