The Corning Museum of Glass has lost one of its warmest, kindest smiles. It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our own Victor Alexander Nemard, who died suddenly on March 17, 2020. He was 61.
Victor joined the Museum in 1996 and began his career as a buyer for the Museum Shops, which was known as the Glass Market at the time, before taking the reins as Senior Manager, a post he held for more than 20 years.
In that time, Victor oversaw two major renovations. The first was an expansive redesign of the retail space during the Museum’s 2001 renovation, which created one of the largest museum gift shops in the United States with eight boutiques devoted to various glass shopping experiences. The second came in 2015-2016 with the redesign and renaming of The Shops in conjunction with the opening of the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, creating the world-class retail experience we know and love today.
Walking through The Shops, Victor’s presence was felt in every small detail. From the seasonal bouquets and decorations to the visionary strategy that makes The Shops unique. And if you were lucky, you might have found Victor slowly walking the aisles, his hands clasped behind his back, carefully looking at the displays, the positioning of a piece of glass and the way the light fell on it, or the way a glass-beaded scarf was draped across a hanger. He was a quiet, ever-smiling presence and if you found him ruminating in this way, he was always one to stop, to talk, and ask you how you were.
To his dedicated staff, he was a role model, a pillar of sound advice, and a quiet but commanding presence who went about his business with confidence. He was always impeccably dressed, stylish in many senses of the word. He was someone you wanted to have lunch with, for it was in these smaller circles that you really felt his personality come alive. He seemed to feel more at home around the small lunch tables of the break room where he could chat and laugh with his team than he did the large board room.
At this already fraught time, it is truly heartbreaking to realize this loss in our Museum’s community. Victor felt a deep loyalty to this Museum for which we will always be grateful. The flag at the Museum was flown at half-mast in Victor’s honor, and his name will be inscribed in the memorial bench located outside the Rakow Library.
He worked closely with so many across the Museum, and several of his close friends and colleagues have shared a memory of their time working with him.
Shelley Peterson, merchandise team manager for The Shops, and Victor’s right hand:
“Victor set the standard for how to be an exceptional leader, mentor, and friend. He made us want to be better, to do more, and to challenge ourselves to achieve greatness. We will continue to carry on his dedication and love for the Museum. I will miss our daily talks, his mischievous smiles, and his laugh that would just make you want to smile. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Karol Wight, president and executive director:
“Victor was one of the people I first met when I arrived at the Museum in 2011. The Shops was so amazing that I wanted to meet the person responsible for the fabulous merchandise displays and selection of items for sale. I really loved his taste! Needless to say, Victor was a delight and I always enjoyed chatting with him when our paths crossed around our Museum campus. He was always receptive to my ideas about artists and products and was a great collaborator when we worked together to design exhibit-related merchandise. His genius has resulted in a museum shop that is the envy of my museum director peers. Along with the rest of our museum family, I miss his inimitable presence.”
Alan Eusden, chief operating officer:
“I had the pleasure of working with Victor for almost six years. The success of the Shops under his leadership has been extraordinary, especially given retail trends that have negatively impacted so many other brick and mortar stores. He had a tremendous ability to analyze, understand, and meet the needs of our guests. Victor was a unique and special person, and I truly appreciated his singular character traits: results-focused, reserved (but with strong opinions!), deeply caring, with a wonderful sense of humor. I loved his passion for the Museum, the Shops, and his people. As Victor and I worked together, we began sharing more on all aspects of life, which I really valued. I miss him, as both a leader and as a friend.”
JoAnne Sharman, retail and customer service supervisor, The Shops:
“Well, with Victor you knew that when he was listening to you, he was also learning, thinking, and deciding, all while paying such close attention to you. I have come to understand, as he is forever in my head and my heart right now, that he was also appreciating everything. Victor appreciated each one of us with every interaction. How can you not adore this person? He had such an infectious smile. He threw that smile my way and it just made my day… I’m quite sure it was that way for everyone. I can speak for our staff that he set the example for us and we were comfortable and inspired by it. Victor treated everyone with respect. He had this way of making decisions that was so quick and confident, he only had to base his thinking on what would be in the best interest of the Museum. He was above all, a steward for our institution which we all have so deeply in common. We were and still are encouraged always by his influence. Victor has prepared us for this, I feel him giving me courage even now.”
Meghan Bunnell, buyer, The Shops:
“When it comes to bosses, Victor was the best boss I could ask for. He was kind, thoughtful, stylish, and his team was the priority. When I started working with Victor, we would have our weekly one-on-one meetings and I expected to walk away with a list of tasks. After a few meetings, I realized Victor wanted me to pave my own way, make my own list of tasks, and ask for his guidance. This was Victor’s way; he would gently offer his thoughts, and often his message was in his silence. He offered me everlasting guidance; I will always be grateful for the time I shared with him.”
Beth Duane, chief marketing and communication officer:
“My path at the Museum didn’t cross frequently with Victor’s, but when it did, my day was always made better for it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since we first met. Throughout those years, Victor and I used one another as a sounding board and, ok I’ll admit it, a safe venting space too. Boy, did we make each other laugh! I’ll remember him as the best-dressed employee ever, and I miss him dearly already.”
Stephanie Russell, The Shops:
“Victor was one of the good ones. He was kind, genuine, and humble. Over the past 14 years, I had the pleasure of working for Victor. He was not only an amazing boss and mentor but also the type of leader others strive to be like. I feel so blessed to have learned from Victor over the years. His commitment and creativity to retail and the Museum were truly inspiring to watch. But even more so was his empathy for those he led. Victor was always in your corner and he fought hard for those around him. His positive attitude always shined through especially during difficult times. Victor was a breath of fresh air every day, greeting everyone as he walked in the door. I will never forget his sweet smile, infectious laugh and kind eyes (even the times he was rolling them back which was his subtle way of saying he didn’t quite agree). He will forever hold a special place in my heart and be missed beyond measure.”
Amy Schwartz, director of The Studio:
“Trust, one can argue, is the most fundamental element in a successful and enduring relationship between two colleagues. From the start—Victor joined the Museum shortly after I did almost 25 years ago—Victor and I had a trusting relationship. We talked openly and honestly and partnered easily. We brought each other good ideas, me telling him of artists whom he might like to carry in The Shops and he sharing plans for the best way to sell videos and glass tools. It was always easy; it was always to benefit the Museum, and it was always fun. Over the decades, under Victor’s leadership, The Shops grew evermore impressive aesthetically: it’s one of the best places I know anywhere to look at the beautiful, interesting glass for sale. Its commercial success has generated more income for supporting the Museum than was ever envisioned. Victor’s career at The Corning Museum of Glass was a wonderful success story. I happened to talk to Victor on his last day of work. I’m delighted to tell you that he was very happy and there was something magical in our last connection. He was bright and joyful and we laughed. I feel so lucky to have had that last encounter with him. I’ll miss our trusted colleague and friend.”
Lynn Creeley, The Shops:
“Victor was a great manager, a great man, and a great friend. I fondly referred to him as ‘The Big Guy.’ He had an open-door policy—you were welcome to go in and talk whenever you needed to or just wanted to. He often came to my office to talk, too. We shared many talks, laughs, and smiles. He will be missed greatly. I miss you, Big Guy.”
Dave Togni, chief financial officer:
“As a part of our working relationship, Victor would come to me each fall and ask for more money to purchase retail inventory. One year, we had a very robust discussion. A few days later, I found a 12-pack of Coke outside my door. For weeks, I didn’t know who left it. Eventually, I found it was Victor. When I asked if it was him, he reluctantly took credit saying, “I thought you could use it during year-end.” It was moments like this that defined Victor’s true essence to me – a quiet contributor who worked behind the scenes to help everyone, albeit a contributor with a strong, foundational opinion. I will miss Victor and will maintain my monthly 30 minute meetings with him to provide a moment for me to remember him.”
Tim Morgan, The Shops:
“Victor was one of the most good-hearted people I ever met. He deeply cared about all of his staff and always went out of his way to make us all feel appreciated. Every single day, I would sit in his office and chat with him. He was a really good person and I will really miss our talks.”
Brittany Hughes, The Shops:
“Victor Nemard; a great man, boss, and mentor. He was the backbone of our retail family. He meant the world to so many and made a positive impact on every path he crossed. I am grateful for the five years I was able to work under him; he was a great leader that I strive to be daily. Work will never be the same without his witty personality, he will be missed beyond measure.”
Rob Cassetti, senior director, creative strategy:
“Victor quietly transformed The Corning Museum of Glass Shops into one of the most successful museum shops in the country. Maybe you never met him or heard of his accomplishments, and that was exactly his plan. Flying the CMoG flag at half-mast is a quiet tribute to a brilliant, stylish man. RIP Victor.”