Thursday, September 24, 2009

Y'all Come Back

Hi, all. There is a momentary lull in activity surrounding the museum, but please keep coming back to check the blog here because we will have news within a week or so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thanks to Mears Family

Casper Star-Tribune, September 10, 2009
Being delighted about the recent large donation for the S.H. Knight Geological Museum at the University of Wyoming, I am writing this letter. Dr. Brainerd Mears and his wife, Anne, have enriched the lives of the people of Wyoming by their generosity. I am also grateful to the citizens of the state of Wyoming, by reason the grant of the state of Wyoming in matching funds.
This museum is a tribute to the history of the state of Wyoming, and it will be enjoyed by future generations. Finding and displaying fossils from the state of Wyoming and from the historic past of the world is an integral part of the state's heritage. Wyoming is one of the places where dinosaurs roamed and their skeletal remains have become well known through the museum.
When I was much younger, I studied one summer under Dr. S. H. Knight, who worked hard to establish this museum. He was enthusiastic about his subject, and passed a great deal of knowledge to his students. I especially recall his geological drawings and their accuracy. What a tribute to this great man and the state of Wyoming has been given by this gift.
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of publicly showing my appreciation for this very special museum and the benefactors who have assured its continuance.

Museum Supporters Visit Trustees Meeting

On Thursday. September 10, Jonathan Rader, Beth Southwell, and Lisa Cox attended the public speaking portion of the UWYo Trustees meeting and spoke in support of the geological museum on campus. Rader, a recent grad, gave a personal testimony of his undergraduate research under former curator Brent Breithaupt's mentorship, emphasizing that as a result of his experience, he will be presenting at the upcoming SVP meeting in Bristol, England. Southwell outlined monetary concerns about the way the museum's closing was handled, as well as Breithaupt's particular qualifications and how important internationally-relevant projects had been stopped short because of his firing. She called for a timely return to a fully-operational museum. Cox testified on behalf of the public and the Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum, who have been continuously ignored by the administration, and urged trustees and President Buchanan to remember their leadership roles at a public, state-funded, land grant university include transparency and accountability to the public served.

An article in the Casper Star-Tribune, linked below, tells more of the story. Following is a link to a letter from Cheyenne from a member of the public also calling for a return to a fully functioning museum, with Breithaupt at the helm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Casper Star-Tribune Editorial: Two Separate Issues

Star-Tribune Editorial Board

It appears as if the University of Wyoming's S.H. Knight Geological Museum has a future, after all.

But it may not be enough to quell criticism by supporters of the museum who have railed against university officials all summer.

The museum was closed July 1, one of the victims of a 10 percent budget cut at the institution. It lost its entire $80,000 annual budget, including veteran curator Brent Breithaupt's position and two part-time staff members.

After the initial uproar, UW made the misstep of announcing it would reopen the museum part-time with the hiring of a security guard. Supporters viewed it as a meaningless and, in many ways, insulting gesture.

Instead, the facility reopened Aug. 24 with a graduate assistant available to guide visitors. But to some of those who view Breithaupt as synonymous with the museum, nothing short of his reinstatement could ever correct the error of his abrupt dismissal after nearly 30 years on the job.

The latest news on the museum front, however, is encouraging. Longtime UW professor Brainerd Mears and his wife, Anne, started an endowment for the museum with a $570,000 donation. With state matching funds approved by the Legislature to encourage private donations, the endowment will total $1.14 million. It will support general operations, purchase new articles and pay for essential travel expenses.

The fund will also be used to redesign the museum on the Laramie campus. UW Foundation President Ben Blalock said the Mears' gift will be used to ignite major fundraising for the museum.

This is a step in the right direction. For at least a time, the university wasn't at all interested in encouraging private donations to the museum. A June offer by a member of an energy industry association to raise funds for the museum received this e-mail response from UW Provost Myron Allen: "I ... appreciate your willingness to consider soliciting donations that would keep the Geology Museum open. However, I hope you'll consider directing any fundraising initiatives toward other measures -- preferably those that support UW's degree-granting departments.

"We won't hire people into permanent positions using temporary funding, and even if permanent funds became available every dean and department head in the institution can name positions that rank more highly than those lost in the Geology Museum."

Between June and September, that attitude appears to have changed, no doubt in large part to the protests of museum supporters. Some suggested alumni withhold donations to the university until the museum is reopened full-time and Breithaupt is given his position back. That doesn't seem likely to happen.

UW appears to have treated Breithaupt shabbily. He was on a business trip to Switzerland when he learned -- from his family, not the university -- that the museum was closing and his position was one of 45 at UW to be terminated. In the eyes of many people, UW officials may never atone for that mistake. The loss of Breithaupt's expertise is immense.

But the Geological Museum is bigger than any one person, and the new endowment will give it a new life. We hope supporters will be persuaded to set aside their anger at the institution and encourage donations so its existence is never again placed in jeopardy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Next?

All of you who have visited the blog or visited with us in person and via e-mail, we would like to thank you for your vocal and continued support of the museum through closure. Because of you, we will have a geological museum again, a unique historical, scientific and educational Wyoming gem on the University of Wyoming campus.

We would especially like to thank the Mears family, who have made such a generous gift to the museum so that the ball can roll in the direction of reinvention. Imagine; finally, after years of talking and wishing, those who visit and use the museum will have one that is even better than before. It's unfortunate that a crisis had to arise in order for the magnitude of importance of the museum to be realized by the upper echelon of university administration, but they finally seem to understand.

We would also like to thank Department of Geology and Geophysics Head Art Snoke for the effort he has expended in concert with Foundation Director Ben Blalock to establish a fund using the Mears gift that will be used exclusively for the museum.

As specifics are yet unavailable regarding the fund, we caution you not to cut a check to the University of Wyoming. You cannot be assured the money will be used for the museum. The Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum maintains our nonprofit status through the Laramie Community Foundation. This is a safe place for you to send a check; all money received in that account will be applied to the museum once the red tape is removed.

Please make your check payable to: Laramie Community Foundation, Memo: Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum, 505 S. Third, Suite 100, Laramie, WY 82070.

Remember, a battle was won, but the terms of agreement are not yet secure. We will continue to pursue the details and report back to you.

Additionally, now is a great time for you to let the Friends know: What do you think is important for the museum's future? Paleontologists, geologists, educators, museum specialists, families, all of you who know the importance of the geological museum, know why it is significant and must be revived. Please comment here on this blog post, or send your thoughts in writing to or Friends of the SH Knight Geological Museum, PO Box 1928, Laramie, WY 82073.

The committee convened to reinvent the museum is composed of several people of varied expertise. Your suggestions to the Friends will be shared with that group as we move forward.

Thanks as always for your continued support of the geological museum as we move forward.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Couple gives museum dino-sized donation

The state will match the Laramie couple's $570,000 gift, giving new life to UW's geological museum.

By Bill McCarthy

CHEYENNE -- A retired University of Wyoming geology professor and his wife have donated enough money to give new life to the S.H. Knight Geological Museum.

Brainerd "Nip" and Anne Mears of Laramie contributed $570,000 to establish an endowment to support the UW geological museum.

The long-time university benefactors' latest donation will be matched by the state, creating an endowment of $1.4 million.

"Nip" Mears, a professor emeritus of geology, retired after 40 years with UW. He came to UW in 1949.

Anne Mears is a UW alum.

The couple's support of the museum is a tribute to Samuel H. "Doc" Knight, a legendary geologist and early museum curator who is credited with bringing the UW Department of Geology into national prominence.

"Continuing his legacy, I think, was important to a great many people," Anne Mears said.

The museum closed to the public June 30 as part of an $18.3 million state budget cut that took effect July 1. It reopened part-time Aug. 24 without a curator.

A group called Friends of S.H. Knight Museum has been raising money to reopen the museum full-time with a curator on a sustainable basis.

Members of Friends of S.H. Knight Museum said they are excited about the Mearses' gift and will continue to raise more money.

Friends spokeswoman Lisa Cox said, "I can assure you that the Friends is thrilled the endowment will go forward so those who have been concerned can contribute knowing the money will be used exclusively for the geological museum.

"The public gets their unique scientific, historical and educational treasure back, though the former curator will not be at the helm at this time."

"Friends is very pleased that the Geology Department, and (Geology Professor) Art Snoke specifically, was able to secure this gift for the museum, and we are very hopeful for the future of the museum," said Kelli Trujillo, another active member of Friends.

UW President Tom Buchanan appointed a task force led by Snoke to develop a long-term plan.

The plan will focus on redesigning the museum to bolster the reputation of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, enhance opportunities for training the next generation of Wyoming science teachers and expand its coverage of Earth sciences.

In a news release, Snoke said, "The new museum will maintain all of the aspects that have made it beloved by the people of Wyoming and will expand into the fields of energy and environment."

The Mearses' gift will help to launch a major fundraising drive to support the museum.

"This gift is not the only gift that is expected," UW spokeswoman Jessica Lowell said.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mearses' Gift Bolsters UW Geological Museum's Research and Education Mission

Sept. 3, 2009 -- Long time University of Wyoming benefactors Brainerd "Nip" and Anne Mears of Laramie have contributed $570,000 to establish an endowment to support the UW Geological Museum. Matched by the state of Wyoming, the $1.14 million endowment will elevate the museum's national prominence in geological research and education.

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