The Schiele Museum: “The Little Engine That Could!”

Leading a nonprofit demands a unique skillset and a kind of commitment often referred to as “grit.” At CapDev we meet all kinds of leaders, and some stand out as especially “gritty,” like Dr. V. Ann Tippitt, Director of The Schiele Museum of Natural History.

The museum’s nearly 20-year leader was recently given two prestigious honors as she was awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine on the same night that The Schiele’s lobby was officially named The Dr. V. Ann Tippitt Lobby.

To know Dr. Tippitt is to know that she does not like surprises, even good surprises. These awards and recognition were done in her honor without her knowledge as all those who work with her, from staff, community volunteers, to city and state officials, believe that she is deserving.

Ann’s Story

“What makes her so special is her love for people and her love for learning,” said a museum statement. She found her place at The Schiele when she joined the staff in 1988 and was able to combine her passions there. Originally from Arkansas, she received her BA in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. After post-graduate work at the University of Missouri, she became a research archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, leading excavations associated with the Richard B. Russell Reservoir construction. She resumed her graduate work at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill where she was awarded a Ph.D. in 1997.

Once she came to the Carolinas and The Schiele, she found home. Over the last 35 years, she has served as the Curator of Collections, led The Schiele’s programs, exhibits, and planetarium, and has served as the Executive Director since 2005. She is an active member in many museum-affiliated organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Directors Association, Southeastern Museums Council, and the North Carolina Museums Council (NCMC) to name a few. She has also been an active Rotarian in the Gastonia Rotary Club since 2005 and received the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship Award in 2013.

During Ann’s time at The Schiele, she led the charge for the museum’s accreditation from the AAM in 2004 and re-accreditation in 2019. As director, Ann delivered outstanding work that elevated the reputation of the museum and the trust of the community.

Campaign Experience

Under Dr. Tippitt’s leadership, the museum raised over $3.5 million to build the first LEED Gold Certified building in Gaston County, the Environmental Studies Center. Through her leadership and passion, The Schiele was able to replace the aging and obsolete planetarium equipment in the James H. Lynn Planetarium, raising more than $750,000 in six months to create a new 360-degree digital experience.

She remains a steadfast advocate for creating an experience at The Schiele that inspires a quest for knowledge in every visitor. Exciting projects continue under her leadership as a new campaign is now underway with CapDev counsel, to introduce an exciting dinosaur exhibit hall in the next few years. While in the early phases, significant strides have been made already and community support continues to build with this exciting new endeavor!

It has been an honor for CapDev to partner with The Schiele Museum and its gritty leader, Ann Tippitt, beginning with a feasibility study in 2019, and commencing with providing strategic guidance for this year’s current campaign.

Director of Development, Elysabeth Utick, recently said of our work together: “We – I – could not have asked for a better guide/mentor/sounding board than Pam [Barnhardt, CapDev Senior Counsel] in all of this. I value her opinion so much. She is such a tremendous human and add to that she continues to guide us through this process with such thoughtfulness and attention to the many factors at play. She is a gold star in the CapDev team!”

Recent Honors

At The Schiele’s Gilded Age of Giants Gala in late September 2023, North Carolina State Representative John Torbett and Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Tim Moore presented Dr. Tippitt with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award. Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved this honor for “persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities”. Senator Brad Overcash read the award aloud during the ceremony and led the crowd in a rousing version of the official North Carolina toast: “Here’s to the land of the long-leaf pine!”

On the same evening, Gastonia City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. David Kirlin announced that The Schiele Museum’s newly updated lobby would be named in honor of Dr. Tippitt. She was presented with a portrait that will hang in the lobby that now bears her name. “This was a surprise,” Dr. Tippitt said during the ceremony. “It’s been delightful and heartwarming to receive this honor and for all of you to be here with me. Thank you.”

The recent recognition that Ann has received is a further testament to her dedication to the community and the quality experience she wants all to have while visiting The Schiele. Through her leadership, she cultivates an inclusive environment where ideas and creativity are encouraged in staff that then share their enthusiasm with students, visitors, and our community at large.

An official proclamation was read at the Gastonia City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 17, 2023, among Dr. Tippitt’s friends and supporters.


The Schiele Museum of Natural History inspires wonder, curiosity, and an appreciation of the natural world, providing the region with a unique educational resource. Visitors to The Schiele learn about the world around them through exceptional programming, fascinating exhibits, and ongoing research. To find out more, visit or follow The Schiele on social media.