Suzanne Barbati retired Feb. 10 as the executive director of OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology after 14 years in the role.
Known for her fundraising skills, she was brought in to help reboot the financially struggling Children’s Museum of the Valley. The museum became OH WOW! under Barbati’s leadership although she’s quick to point out that the effort involved many people who supported the plans.
After so many years leading the center, she decided it was time to step away. “I always knew I wanted to retire,” Barbati said. People tend to associate her with OH WOW! and vice versa as if they’re intertwined.
“As important as OH WOW! is to me and always will be, I want people to see that it’s successful without me.” OH WOW! opened in 2011. “If a new business fails it typically fails within the first three years so once we got past that three-year mark, we started looking toward the future,” Barbati said.
She and board members began the process to try to sustain the center’s same level of success. “We immediately began thinking about a legacy of giving,” Barbati said. “We started back then to make sure we had things in place in terms of succession planning.”
Before helming the museum, Barbati, a Mahoning Valley native, worked as a consultant and small business owner working with non-profit organizations with fundraising, grant writing and related goals.
A friend got her involved in the former Peace Council of Youngstown and from there, Barbati got involved in mediation and conflict management, volunteering with the mediation center in Youngstown and consulting for the Ohio mediation service.
Since retirement, Barbati’s been resting, relaxing, vacationing, spending time with family, cooking and exercising. She’s enjoying not working.
“It’s a transition, but it’s really important for OH WOW! to move beyond my leadership and for people to see that and for me to do some different kinds of things,” she said.
Marvin Logan Jr. was tapped as OH WOW! executive director after Barbati’s retirement. “I tell Marvin all the time, I’m looking forward to see what they do next,” she said. “There’s a bunch of things they’ve got planned and I’m looking forward to the future.”