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Apr. 14, 2022 | Experienced fundraiser intends to build `authentic philanthropic culture’ for Chicago’s iconic nonprofit

Navy Pier Names Elizabeth Halajian VP of Development

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The nonprofit Navy Pier Inc. has named Elizabeth Halajian Vice President of Development effective April 18. In this role, Halajian will serve as architect and ambassador for all fundraising activities for Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier—one of the most visited cultural destinations in the Midwest—and its mission-driven, year-round public programming.

Building on a vast and varied career in the nonprofit sector, Halajian comes to Navy Pier from the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, where she served as Vice President of Development. During her time there she increased the organization’s donor base by 123 percent, directed special events grossing more than $3 million, established a comprehensive fundraising campaign to provide meaningful support to arts organizations navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and formalized the Theater’s sponsorship program so that monumental U.S. premieres could be presented.

“Navy Pier recently celebrated ten years as an independent, nongovernmental nonprofit,” said Navy Pier, Inc. President and CEO Marilynn Gardner. “Elizabeth will play a critical role for us as we continue to grow our individual, corporate, and foundational support, which is so important to our operations. She is a creative leader who will be an effective ambassador in advancing our nonprofit mission as a dynamic and accessible world-class destination for our 9 million annual guests.”

“I believe deeply in nonprofit cultural organizations that help a city express its identity, while giving its friends and neighbors a place to gather—something that has become ever more important as we emerge from the pandemic—so this is the perfect time to support the goals and growth of the People’s Pier by engaging donors at every level,” Halajian said.  “I look forward to working with Marilynn and my new colleagues to build an authentic philanthropic culture that ensures the future sustainability of the Pier as a world-class public space that celebrates the vitality and resilience of Chicago.”

Halajian began her career as a professional ballet dancer and educator with such organizations as Burklyn Ballet Theatre, San Diego Ballet, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and Charleston Ballet Theatre, developing her passion for connecting individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities with cultural programming. Since transitioning into nonprofit administration, her expertise has spanned major-gift and annual fundraising, board relations, grant writing, event management, marketing and sales, and organizational culture leadership.

Halajian holds a B.F.A. in Dance Performance from Butler University and is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy. She serves as an Advisory Committee member to South Chicago Dance Theatre. She chairs both the Philanthropy Committee for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago chapter, and External Affairs for Chicago Dancers United.

Halajian will report to Arnie Rivera, Navy Pier’s Chief Administrative & Executive Officer. Around 3,000 people are employed by Navy Pier and its 71 tenant businesses. To learn more about employment opportunities, visit

To access an image of Elizabeth Halajian for media use (courtesy of Flint Chaney), click here.

About Navy Pier

Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, Chicago’s lakefront treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.

Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million guests have come to enjoy the Pier’s 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. In 2022, Navy Pier continues to evolve into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.


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