Message to Members: Pauline Saliga to Step Down as Executive Director

by Victoria Young, SAH President | Feb 23, 2022

Dear Members of the Society of Architectural Historians,

I write to you today with significant news — our executive director, Pauline Saliga, has let me know that she will be stepping down from her role with the Society and the Charnley Persky House in the early fall of 2022. She has taken time during the pandemic to think about her future and her decision was a difficult one, but one very thoughtfully considered. I’m pleased to say that she is happy with her choice, and that is comforting to me and hopefully to you all.

Pauline’s Accomplishments (abridged!)

We all know how extraordinary Pauline is right now, as we work with her on the board and in other roles. But did you know that she has been our leader since 1995 — 27 years! She started her time with us as SAH moved to Charnley-Persky House in Chicago and since that move, Pauline and our staff have worked tirelessly to share our landmark house with the public, holding programs, tours, and exhibition while raising more than $500,000 for restoration projects.

She is a creative innovator. Since 2006 she has worked with others on the significant digital architectural history projects that have redefined SAH – JSAH multimedia online, SAHARA, and SAH Archipedia. She credits the collegial and collaborative culture of SAH in helping to make this possible.

Pauline cares deeply about our field and those in it. From 2018 to 2021 she worked with an SAH team and the Mellon Foundation to publish the first national, large-scale assessment of the health of our fields, Architectural History in the United States: Findings and Trends in Higher Education. And from 2020 to 2021, working with SAH leadership, she created the SAH IDEAS Committee, SAH Affiliate Groups, research and conference fellowships, and more to provide opportunities for marginalized individuals in all areas of the Society.

When Pauline started her position in 1995, we had $7000 in fellowship funding for all career stages. Working with others, this has grown to $188,000 in 2022. She has helped lead us in building the SAH Endowment from $250,000 when she began to over $7.4 million today. Thanks to the generosity of Seymour Persky, she was able to start a small endowment for Charnley-Persky House, which is now valuated at $350,000. She has secured nearly $4 million in Mellon Foundation funds over the years for fellowships, publishing platforms, and the SAH Data Project, as well as more than $750,000 from the NEH to develop SAH Archipedia and the open-access content that it holds.

During Covid, staff and SAH leadership have all found Pauline to be our guiding light. Financially we have been sound because of her and our staff writing grants to cover our operational expenses, including $441,000 from the NEH and Small Business Administration. We held virtual conferences, had a virtual 80th birthday party, and other online and in-person fundraising events. We created SAH CONNECTS and moved roundtables online to allow our colleagues around the world to attend these important conversations. Pauline attends every committee meeting, helping to connect all the SAH pieces in a way that helps us move forward. And she is a well-respected leader in the American Council of Learned Societies, something I’ve witnessed firsthand during my time as president in attending meetings and workshops with her.

This is just a sampling of her gifts to our Society over the past 27 years. Pauline has been clear throughout the time I’ve worked with her that this doesn’t happen alone. She has always felt very fortunate to work with her talented staff and the many of us who have come through leadership or been members of committees in the past decades. She loves the annual conference when she can talk to members and really get the pulse of our organization.

A Timeline for Pauline’s Departure

Pauline would like to stay in her position through early fall and her final day is still to be determined. She will do all she can to ensure a smooth transition for our new hire, staff, and Society at large. She’ll continue her regular duties until then, including working on our fall fundraiser. Additionally, she is working to finish the financial and narrative report for the SAH Data Project; she is collaborating on a summer 2022 teacher institute with Dr. Desmond Odugu, the principal investigator for Lake Forest College’s project “Racism and the Built Environment in Chicago”; and she is finishing the installation of a temporary exhibition at the Charnley-Persky House, The City Beyond the White City: Race, Two Chicago Homes, and their Neighborhoods, with Dr. Rebecca Graff from Lake Forest College. This exhibit will open on September 16, 2022, in the Charnley-Persky House.

The End of an Era

I have had the great fortune as president to work closely with Pauline over the last few years, and I have always been impressed by everything about her. She is truly one of the best executive directors in any organization, nonprofit or otherwise. I’m deeply grateful for all she has done for me professionally, and it has been my good fortune that I could connect with her over my many years on the SAH Board.

I’m most grateful, however, on behalf of the Society of Architectural Historians for the amazing commitment she’s shown to this organization since day one. We have become one of the most respected learned societies because of her leadership and wisdom. She leaves us in a powerful place, and I know that we’ll find another wonderful executive director to take us down their own path as we move forward.

Pauline has told many of us that serving as the executive director of the Society was the opportunity of a lifetime. We thank you, Pauline, for all you’ve done for SAH and Charnley-Persky House and wish you the very best for the next brilliant thing you will do!

Very best,

Victoria Young
President, Society of Architectural Historians


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

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