Jeff Willner

Meet Jeff Willner

Our new Chair of ROM Board of Governors
Royal Exhibitions Circle Member, and CEO of Travel Edge

Where did you grow up?
My parents were missionaries and I grew up in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). Our house was in Kalemie, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
There is an African culture of sharing, where anyone who comes to the cooking fire can eat. I had many happy evenings squatting in a circle with a neighbour family as the sun set, sharing some greens or smoked fish, listening to the mzee (elder) telling us the secrets of life. Then I would get in trouble for missing dinner at home.

What was the last book you read?
I’m a bookworm and read a book a week, usually a science fiction or adventure novel (Alastair Reynolds, Martha Wells, James S. A. Corey, Lee Childs). The book I regularly recommend is The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley.

Which one person would you invite to dinner, living or dead, real or fictional?
Dinner is a place for family. I would invite my mother who passed away 15 years ago.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a tough question for a music lover. I suppose Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

What’s your favourite place in the world?
I’ve had the chance to drive around 100 countries in a Land Rover Defender, so that’s a tough question. But my favourite is Italy. The people, food, wine, history, art, and landscape are all extraordinary.

What do you love most about ROM?
The amazing team of people. The Museum could not be as special as it is without the dedication of our curators, staff, Governors, Trustees, and especially our volunteers.

If you had to describe ROM in one word, what would it be?

What are you most excited about as the new Chair of ROM Board of Governors?
I’m excited for the opportunity to serve. The role of the Governors is to support and bolster the great work of ROM.

If you could have anything from ROM’s collections, what would you choose?
Something from the Dawn of Life Gallery.