Arts and Culture

The Muhammad Ali Center named Laura Douglas as its interim president and CEO Monday.

The center’s current director, Donald Lassere, is stepping down after nearly nine years. He’s accepted a job as the president and CEO of the Chicago History Museum in his hometown. His last day at the Ali Center is April 9.

Douglas is the first woman and first Black woman to lead the organization, according to a news release from the center. 

She’ll oversee daily management and the center’s reopening to the public on April 1, following several months closed due to a spike in COVID cases. Douglas will also help prepare for the Muhammad Ali Festival in June while the center continues its national search for a permanent leader. 

The release said the center is looking for a firm to manage the search. 

Douglas comes to the Ali Center from TARC, where she was the interim co-executive director. She’s also worked for the Legal Aid Society and the Metropolitan Sewer District and has been on the Ali Center’s board of directors for a decade, including three years as the chairperson and the immediate past chair on the center’s Executive Committee.

“I have an unwavering commitment to the Muhammad Ali Center and its mission,” Douglas said in the release. “I am proud to continue my service by assuming this new role. I am also humbled to lead the Center’s wonderful team of professionals as we approach the five year anniversary of Muhammad’s passing this June and finalize our plans to mark that occasion with the annual Muhammad Ali Festival.”

Robert Croft, chairman of the board, said Douglas “is the right person at the right time to fill this interim role.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.