Rich Flood, University of Miami ’97, was named a Knight in the Ordres national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) from France, for his success with a $100M capital campaign and other projects for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
The highest honor a non-French national can receive, the National Order of Merit is awarded by the President of France to individuals who have significantly impacted France and the French people.
Since 2015, Flood has served as Chief Advancement Officer for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the not-for-profit that collaborates with the National Park Service to restore and preserve these beloved monuments. The organization’s CEO recruited Flood to lead the fundraising initiative for the Statue of Liberty Museum, which presents the story of the statue’s history and relevance to millions of visitors annually.
Working closely with campaign chairperson Diane von Furstenberg, Flood developed critical relationships with major donors and established a collaborative partnership with the French Government that continues years after the museum’s 2019 opening.
Flood started his career as a media buyer, working on some of TBWA/Chiat/Day’s largest accounts like Apple, Nissan Infiniti, Kmart and others. Not long after, the events of 9/11 shook the American people to their core. Flood stood by and watched most of it unfold from his office window in Midtown.
“As a lifelong New Yorker, this had a tremendous impact on me, like many others. I felt the need to think about what my contribution was going to be,” Flood said.
Inspired by the American Red Cross 9/11 recovery efforts, he decided he wanted to refocus on work that he found more personally fulfilling and impactful. Flood focused his next career move on understanding the intricacies of the non-profit world.
Flood moved on from agency life and accepted an offer at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This was the perfect opportunity for him to combine his advertising experience with nonprofit work.
At the time, the Whitney had been trying to expand on the Upper East Side. Design projects, part of the expansion plan, were constantly defeated by local opposition, causing a very contentious relationship between the Whitney and its neighbors.
Flood started from the ground up, working in the community to understand the consistent opposition. Although it was a bumpy road, the Whitney eventually received all approvals needed for their expansion. Just as those approvals went through, the Mayor of New York at the time proposed the idea to relocate to New York’s Meatpacking District in the West Village, where Whitney would become a cultural anchor for a new park in the city. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so Flood and his team went for it. They received zero opposition and their relocation moved forward, with the building opening in 2015 at the Highline.
“I never would have associated myself with building museums,” Flood said.
While he never saw himself here, he had a willingness to accept a challenge and see it through. Community relations and affairs were new for him, yet he was able to push through with this mindset and excel, gaining approvals never before secured. The same mindset is true for his experience in Lambda Chi Alpha.
Flood had no plans to join a fraternity when he went to college, although his brothers were in one at their respective universities. He noticed how strong of a presence Lambda Chi Alpha had at the University of Miami and decided to join. He came to the table with an open mind and a willingness to listen, as he did with his professional challenges, and proceeded, not knowing what to expect.
Becoming a Member of Lambda Chi Alpha has also taught Flood to step out of his comfort zone, an instance that has helped him countless times. He was comfortable sitting in the back of the room, but he felt empowered to be able to stand in front of an audience or auditorium, sometimes a hostile one. It gave him confidence, experience and the encouragement to step forward and do those things.
“Never say no” – a mantra Flood lives by. He never envisioned working in an art museum, nor did he have an appreciation for the arts, until working at the Whitney.
“Here I am, leaving a significant footprint on the city of New York, the Whitney Museum, and the Statue of Liberty Museum,” Flood said.
The National Order of Merit solidified Flood’s footprint on New York City and France. Because of his determination and hard work, The Whitney and Statue of Liberty Museum will be an eternal legacy that will serve millions of people from around the world.