By Beverly Keller
All members of The Jerry and Laura Jacobson Foundation were on board with a decision to appoint Noel B. Poirier as its Executive Director.
Poirier will guide both the Foundation and the Age of Steam. He started in his role on July 16.
“We are very fortunate and excited to have Noel Poirier join our organization,” explained Board Chairman and President of the Jerry and Laura Jacobson Foundation, Bill Strawn. “His proven leadership, museum development skills, and demonstrated forward vision will introduce Jerry Jacobson’s steam locomotive collection and historically constructed facility for public viewing and appreciation. Noel’s grasp of the significant importance that The Age of Steam Roundhouse offers all who visit will undoubtedly propel it toward becoming a world destination.”
The selection is one based on the culmination of a nationwide search that included the review of many candidates from various backgrounds and disciplines. “It reflects the Foundation’s desire to continue its efforts in being at the forefront of steam locomotive preservation by continuing Jerry Jacobson’s desire to share his efforts and enthusiasm with the public and for posterity,” Strawn said.
The Pennsylvania-native is slowly getting acclimated with Sugarcreek, a place that reminds him of the Lancaster area in the 1980s. He spends approximately 4 – 5 days per week here before heading home to spend time with his wife and two children. However, that practice will soon be coming to an end as the family has purchased a home in the New Philadelphia area that Poirier expects to get the keys for soon.
He is an experienced museum professional that has successfully managed museum and other not-for-profit industrial groups including The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia and two living historical farms in Pennsylvania; Historic Bethlehem Partnership in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Most recently Poirier served as the director of the National Watch and Clock Museum where he led the march to be awarded accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums.
“I wasn’t really looking for a new job,” Poirier shared. “I saw the opening, I looked into it and then put it away. But then it came back up again.”
When it came down to making the decision, he noted that it was one of the family variety. “Everyone had to be on board or nothing,” he shared. “My daughter is 18 and put off starting college to help her mother back at home. My son is excited. My wife is a teacher and she is excited.”
Poirier is ready for the challenge that Age of Steam will provide and spends most of his time learning, reading and working to understand the collection Jacobson amassed. “I welcome the opportunity to carry forward Jerry Jacobson’s vision for The Age of Steam Roundhouse and guide it toward becoming the premier destination for enthusiasts of railroad history and steam locomotives,” he shared. “The collection, these facilities, this work occurring at the Roundhouse all make it a natural attraction for tourism, yet it will still be accessible and interesting for those visitors who have not yet caught the railroading bug. I look forward to playing an important part in attracting more visitors to this region.”
He noted that this is an incredible opportunity to mold and shape the future of Age of Steam. “This collection is top notch, some of the finest in the world,” Poirier explained. “We have a big responsibility where we are to be a good neighbor, no matter how we grow.”
Looking forward, Poirier is excited. “There is a lot of work to be done,” he said. “We will start with a strategic plan. I am not one to shoot from the hip. I want to sit down with stakeholders and develop a vision that is consistent and go from there.”
As to how long that process might take, Poirier said it is a time-consuming process, but he hopes to have some things done for the spring when public tours of the site may begin. “We are going to work to make the collection as accessible as possible,” he said. “There are a lot of logistics involved in that process including staffing, hours and marketing choices. We also have several other collections than the locomotives like bells, whistles, and lights. It is diverse and inspiring. Jerry spared no expense. I knew that from the first day.”
One of the first things Poirier did at Age of Steam was to get down on his knees and take a look at the locomotives from the perspective of a child. “And it was amazing,” he said with a smile.
The Jerry and Laura Jacobson Foundation, Inc., is an educational, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that operates The Age of Steam Roundhouse, a fully-functioning roundhouse, locomotive back shop and museum that was put together by the late Jerry Jacobson. For more info, check out www.ageofsteamroundhouse.com