Marilynn Gardner is President & CEO of Navy Pier, Inc. the recently established not-for-profit entrusted with the operation and redevelopment of Navy Pier. She was appointed to the position in July 2011 when operation of Navy Pier was transferred from the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA), a quasi-governmental agency, to Navy Pier, Inc. She had served as General Manager of Navy Pier, the top visited leisure destination in the Midwest, since 2006, and most recently has led her team to transition to a self-sustaining not-for-profit corporation.
Marilynn began her tenure at Navy Pier in 1994 as Assistant Director of Public Relations during the Pier’s initial redevelopment. She then held key marketing and communications positions including Director of Public Relations, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for Navy Pier and Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for the MPEA. Prior to being appointed General Manager of Navy Pier in 2006, she served as Chief of Marketing and Communications for the MPEA.
Marilynn proved to be an invaluable asset to the MPEA’s operations on many levels throughout the years working closely with all Navy Pier and MPEA departments as well as a host of city and state agencies and MPEA stakeholders. During the course of her tenure with the MPEA, Marilynn was a key decision maker in the promotion and planning of numerous events including Navy Pier’s 1995 Grand Opening, the Democratic National Convention welcoming reception, McCormick Place South Building Grand Opening, five Tall Ships Festivals and 11 Winter WonderFest® events.
Under her leadership, Navy Pier has become solidly established as the top visited leisure destination in the Midwest, drawing more than 8.5 million guests annually. Navy Pier was awarded a certificate of recognition from the U.S. EPA Region 5 and City of Chicago Department of Environment in 2009 for the facility’s extraordinary efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling through its operations. And in 2010, the American Sailing Training Association (ASTA) named Navy Pier ”Port of the Year,” in recognition of the Pepsi Tall Ships ® 2010 Festival that hosted 20 tall ships and heritage boats from around the world.
In her current role as President & CEO of Navy Pier, Inc. she is responsible for oversight of Navy Pier operations and charged with the redevelopment of Navy Pier.
Marilynn is a member of the Chicago Sports Commission Advisory Board, serves on the Marketing Committee of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association and is a member of the Regional Board of the American Ireland Fund. She also serves on the Board of Regents for her Alma Mater St. Ignatius College Prep. She is a graduate of Marquette University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism.
A life-long Chicago area resident, Marilynn lives on the north side of the city of Chicago with her three children Madeline, Katherine and Patrick.