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Donald Lassere Stepping Down as Muhammad Ali Center President and CEO

Relocating to his Hometown Roots

Has Accepted Position as President and CEO of Chicago History Museum

LOUISVILLE, KY (February 16, 2021) —Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center is stepping down from his leadership role after almost nine years and is relocating to his hometown of Chicago, its Board and Leadership announced today.

Mr. Lassere has accepted a new position as President and CEO of The Chicago History Museum and is moving due to prioritize family demands.

The Muhammad Ali Center will launch a national CEO search and soon name a temporary leader who will oversee the day-to-day management of the Center and its organizational transition.

During Lassere’s tenure at the Ali Center, he expanded the breadth and scope of its educational programs, fostered creative partnerships and museum experiences, and reinforced the Center’s role in the community as a “gathering place” for peace, diversity, and respect—all of which helped raise awareness of Muhammad Ali’s legacy and the mission of the Ali Center.

When Mr. Lassere first came on board in early 2012, one of the first things he did was to facilitate a rebranding process and implement a strategic plan that focused on the programmatic areas of: Education, Social Justice, Global Citizenship, and Gender Equity. As the culmination of these areas, Lassere launched the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards in 2013, designed to inspire and encourage young people worldwide to become actively involved in social justice issues that impact their communities, countries, and the world. In 2019, working in partnership with the Trident Swimming Foundation, ESPN, and Ali’s alma mater Central High School, Lassere initiated the Ali Stingrays Swimmer Scholars’ Program.

Lonnie Ali, Co-Founder and Vice Chair of the Ali Center said, “Donald’s departure from the Muhammad Ali Center will be difficult for staff and Board Members but especially for me. During his tenure, Donald’s leadership has been critical in advancing the Center’s mission locally, domestically and globally. He navigated the Center through some of its most difficult periods; the passing and memorial of my husband, the recent civil unrest and protests for social justice and the ongoing devastation of a global pandemic. I am confident that Donald will be a vital asset wherever he lands. He will always be linked to the Center’s success and Muhammad’s legacy.”

Said Lassere, “It has been my honor and privilege to lead the Ali Center over these past years and to have had the opportunity to further Muhammad’s relevancy and impact.  Muhammad has been a personal hero of mine my entire life, so the decision to make a career transition made it all the more difficult. I will greatly miss all of the individuals I have met in this community and am confident the Center will continue to grow in new and significant ways. I want to sincerely thank our staff, our board and the community for all they have done to help make the Ali Center what it is today. I will continue to carry you all in my heart and will greatly miss you. My family and I look forward to our new chapter in Chicago.”

Robert Croft, Chairman of the Board for the Muhammad Ali Center said, “Donald has made a great impact on this organization and in thinking of his tenure here, I’m reminded of something Ali once said, ‘The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.’  Donald’s most important efforts were on the things we don’t get to see and recognize every day. He has consistently focused sharply on the hard work, even if it was not the most visible because he knows that is what it takes to uplift those in our communities that need it most. As he moves to his next chapter, the Center will miss him for both his work in front of and behind the scenes.”

In addition to Mr. Lassere’s many achievements at the Ali Center, he has dedicated his time and energy to the community; he serves as the Chairman of Louisville Tourism’s Board of Commissioners, is a Member of the Louisville Downtown Management District Board of Directors, and he also sits on the Louisville Ballet Board of Directors.  Lassere is an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville in the Entrepreneurial MBA Program where he teaches leadership and organizational behavior.

“Donald has been instrumental in teaching the world how important our native son was – both upon Ali’s death in 2016 and carrying his legacy forward through today,” said Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism. “I saw firsthand how he helped bring the entire community together in celebration of the humanitarian icon’s life and reinvest that goodwill for our city. I’ve also been so impressed with Donald’s leadership, not only as head of one of our city’s most iconic attractions, but also having the opportunity to work alongside him during his tenure as Louisville Tourism’s board chair over the past eight years. Through that, he has become a dear friend. Certainly Louisville’s loss is Chicago’s gain and he will be very missed in our city.”

Lassere holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco.

About the Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center, a 501(c)3 corporation, was cofounded by Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The international cultural center promotes the Six Core Principles of Muhammad Ali (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality) in ways that inspire personal and global greatness and provides programming and events around the focus areas of education, racial and gender equity, and global citizenship. The Ali Center is formally associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications, and in 2020, became one of the newest stops on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The Center’s headquarters also contains an award-winning museum experience. For more information, please visit



Jeanie Kahnke
Muhammad Ali Center
(502) 992.5301 or (502) 640.6077