He succeeds Terrence Brown, whose contract was not renewed in September by the Oyster Bay-based organization that promotes and explores the legacy of the 26th president.
Pels, 44, worked for more than 20 years in brand and product development as senior director of affiliate sales for Westwood One, director of international television and media for the NBA and regional director for the Midwest for Bloomberg.
"We're delighted that Laurence is joining the TRA as we go about reshaping and revitalizing the organization," said Tweed Roosevelt of Boston, a great-grandson of Teddy Roosevelt and president of the TRA board. "While he doesn't have a lot of experience running not-for-profits, his broad-based career in marketing and product development, his enthusiasm, energy and critical thinking skills will guide us as we expand our programs, build our membership [from the current 1,350], and reach out to new audiences. And he loves TR."
Pels, a Manhattan native like TR, is vice president and treasurer for the Laura Pels Foundation, a nonprofit foundation set up by his mother to provide grants to theater groups in New York City.
"I'm proud to have the opportunity to introduce the millennial generation and beyond to Theodore Roosevelt," he said, "and engage our country's future leaders in TR's legacy and ageless wisdom."
"Here's this guy who has done so much for the city and country. I want to bring his messages to a younger generation," said Pels, who has two high school daughters. "I want to make TR as prominent as some other early presidents."
The association in September decided not to renew Brown's contract after two years, but credited him with successfully reorganizing operations and reducing costs after the high-cost failure of a plan to build a museum in Oyster Bay by his predecessor.