By Paulette Safdieh
Visitors come to the Upper East Side from all over the world for a bite to eat at Serendipity 3 or a carriage ride through Central Park, but most of all to spend some time visiting Museum Mile. Our famed museums along 5th Avenue keep our neighborhood bustling with culture and give our children some of the greatest educational opportunities outside of the classroom. Our biggest museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, dates back to 1866.
Current president and OTTY Award winner Emily Rafferty makes sure The Met continues to thrive and contribute to our community.
Raised on Park Avenue, Rafferty, 63, developed a love for The Met at a young age.
“I would roller skate by it on my way home and it was a part of my life to come to the museum,” said Rafferty. “I remember going to The Cloisters for the first time and being overwhelmed by its beauty. It was part of my neighborhood and I definitely embraced it.”
Rafferty attended grade school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street, where she later served on the board for 15 years, four of those as chairwoman. While there, she fundraised and worked with city agencies to have the building’s façade restored. She attended high school at the Chapin School on East 84th Street and graduated from Boston University in 1971. During her college years in Massachusetts, she returned for a summer to work at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. She moved back to Manhattan for good in 1975.
“I’ve been very involved in the community,” said Rafferty. “My siblings and I are all very, very tied to the neighborhood.”
Rafferty started working at The Met at just 25 years old as an assistant director in the development office. Museum executives noticed her hard work and knack for fundraising and she continued to gain responsibilities. She became the first female vice president of the museum in 1984 and became president 20 years later. She now manages the over 2,000 employees and volunteers who serve 5.6 million annual visitors and take care of 2 million pieces of artwork.
“The greatest challenges are just the scope of what goes on at the museum on a day-to-day basis—everything from activities to visitors and what happens beyond the walls of The Met,” Rafferty said about her job. “It’s establishing priorities and making sure that problems get solved.”
Beyond her work at The Met, Rafferty chairs NYC & Company, the city’s tourism office, and serves as a member of the board of directors of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
To get some breathing space, Rafferty walks through Central Park each morning to get to the museum from her West 77th Street apartment, where she lives with husband of 25 years, John Rafferty, a partner at Ernst & Young.
Since she moved from the Upper East Side over 20 years ago, Rafferty said the area has changed greatly with regard to its popularity and increased tourism industry. However, she said that the same core values of family and community from her childhood still characterize the neighborhood.
“There were a lot of very qualified people nominated for this award and I feel honored to receive it,” said Rafferty. “I don’t quite know why I emerged out of everyone else.” n
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