CCHS president, history zealot mourned

Updated to add a link to the obituary

In his statement on the president’s page of the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) website, Rob Lukens, a native of southeastern Pennsylvania whose ancestors co-founded Germantown in 1683, summed up the passion that he brought to the institution.

Rob Lukens

Rob Lukens

“I love this place, and know you will, too (if you don't yet!),” it stated.

The historical society is now deeply mourning his loss. He died on Saturday, Aug. 1, of stomach cancer at age 42, following a two-year battle, according to a CCHS press release.

Lukens became the CCHS president in 2011, although his association with the society began in 1993, when he helped catalog, pack, and move museum objects as a volunteer during his undergraduate studies. Later, he was an intern at CCHS and then became its collections manager in 1998.

He left CCHS in 2003 to become the head of collections at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His career then took him to Historic Yellow Springs and the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center before bringing him back to the Historical Society, ready to lead the institution he cherished.

"Rob Lukens made an indelible mark on the Chester County Historical Society,” George Zumbano, chairman of the CCHS Board of Trustees, said in the release. “It was a pleasure and an honor to work with him. His enthusiasm for our region's history was contagious, and he brought a level of professional expertise that helped us move forward in innovative ways."

At CCHS, Lukens exuded enthusiasm for his role as an ambassador and guardian of Chester County history. He wrote a regular column in a local newspaper, did a weekly radio program, and championed the popular History on Tap series, which combined entertaining history lessons with the ambiance of local watering holes.

Luken’s leadership brought much-needed upgrades to the CCHS facilities and continuing plans for improvement. Throughout his illness, he remained committed to CCHS – attending functions and continuing to promote the institution – especially in developing plans for the new permanent exhibition.

In late May, Lukens, who received a doctorate in history from Temple in 2010, announced that work had begun on “A Place in History,” a $2.2 million permanent exhibition-space renovation that will enable visitors to traverse 300 years of county history in 6,000 square feet. The redesigned space will utilize interactive maps, touch screens and audio-visual effects to create a 21st-century experience.

“We want to make the wow factor so intense that you want to come back,” Lukens said at the time.

Describing Lukens as a devoted father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, and colleague, the release said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Becky, his two children, Abbie and Finn, and his entire family during this difficult time.”

Zumbano said that David B. Reinfeld, who has served as acting president of CCHS for the last two years, has been named interim president. "David has done a remarkable job throughout this difficult time, and we are confident that CCHS remains in good hands," Zumbano said.

The release said CCHS will post funeral arrangements on its website – – when they become available.

“The Chester County Historical Society Board of Trustees, staff members, and volunteers are grateful for the time that we had with Rob, and we will miss him dearly,” the release said. “His work, which is our work, will continue.”

To view the obituary, click here.


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