Lyric Opera of Chicago Announces Two New Executive Appointments

Ursulla McWhorter is the company’s new VP of People and Culture; Robert C. Goodwin joins as new VP of Lyric Unlimited

CHICAGO, IL (8/11/2021) – Lyric Opera of Chicago announced today that Ursulla McWhorter and Robert C. Goodwin will join Lyric Opera of Chicago as the new vice president of people and culture and vice president of Lyric Unlimited - Learning and Creative Engagement, respectively. McWhorter has been Lyric’s interim director of human resources since late January 2021 but will step into a new position aimed at connecting Lyric’s human resources, IDEA initiatives, and internal culture. Goodwin comes to Lyric after most recently serving as the Director of Artistic Engagement/Education and Community at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“Ursulla brings an incredibly strong professional background to Lyric,” says Roberta Lane, Lyric’s chief financial and administrative officer. “She started her Human Resource career at Ford Motor Company in Detroit and, subsequently, spent 10 years at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan before starting her own consulting firm. Since joining us in January, Ursulla has already provided invaluable assistance to Lyric staff and made tremendous contributions to the company.”

“We are excited to be welcoming Robert C. Goodwin to Lyric,” Lane continued. “His tenure at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has equipped him well to provide leadership and vision to our Learning and Creative Engagement team, and the company overall. The real, concrete and relevant work that Lyric does to serve our community is one of our most important aspects of our mission. We know Robert will take that work to an even deeper and more meaningful level.”

Ursulla McWhorter has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, employee & labor relations, talent management, DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives and leadership coaching and development. Before beginning her work as interim director of human resources at Lyric, McWhorter helped launch and implement a DEI focused student leadership program at Schoolcraft College. In her time at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), she worked with executive leadership of the Health Maintenance Organization (BCN) and Preferred Provider Operation (BCBSM) to re-align and unite the two corporate structures, as well as organized and facilitated executive level succession planning sessions for the organization. She is an active advocate for diversity and inclusion, having implemented a flexible work structure and a new summer internship program recruiting college students on the Autism Spectrum while at BCBSM. McWhorter also has experience supporting local contract negotiations with United Auto Workers during her time at BCBSM and Ford Motor Company. She has a BA from Michigan State University and an MA in Labor & Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois. Her first day as Lyric’s VP of People and Culture will be August 16, 2021.

Native Illinoisian, Robert C. Goodwin, returns to Chicago as the leader of the Lyric Unlimited - Lyric’s Learning and Creative Engagement department after 7 years with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), where he led the education and engagement programs for the destination model performing arts institution. His work focused on integrating OSF with the surrounding community in a more meaningful way, and developing digital engagement programs and performance spaces, even pre-pandemic — including OSF’s Living Ideas: Art and Community Dialogue Series and an immersive, interactive performance titled Take Them Into the Dirt. Prior to OSF, Goodwin was a teaching artist with Chicago’s Urban Gateways; the Director of Outreach for Theatre and Performance Studies and a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago; and an adjunct professor of theatre for Kennedy King College. He is a seasoned multi-disciplinary arts/entertainment professional with three decades of experience working equally as a performing artist, producer/content creator, and arts administrator. Goodwin carries a BS in Speech Communications/Public Relations from Southern Illinois University and an MFA in acting from DePaul University. His first day as Lyric’s VP of Lyric Unlimited - Learning and Creative Engagement will be September 7, 2021.

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

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Photo: (c) Darris Lee Harris Photography