Museum Endowment Funds
The new Museum of Natural History is sincerely grateful to our long-time generous donors who have established the following endowments that will provide growing and long-term impact and support for programs that align with their interests.
Endowment funds help secure the future of museum programs for generations to come. If you’re interested in contributing to any of these endowments, go to the museum’s giving page and type the last name in the “Search for Funds” field. If you’re interested in establishing a fund in your name, please contact Nora Webber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-936-5834.
In the fall of 1983, University of Michigan freshman Jim Bahen heard about a campus job that involved dinosaurs. He walked past the pumas, into the Rotunda of the Ruthven Museums Building, and became a UMMNH student docent. He would later describe it as “one of his best Michigan experiences.”
While it was fun learning about all of the different exhibits in the museum, the tours were the most enjoyable part for Jim. He fondly remembers the school kids who found the museum boring, and those who knew more than he did. As with many student docents, Jim’s favorite part of tours was presenting the hands-on materials such as a mammoth tooth, a trilobite, and of course, the coprolites.
In honor of his time as a docent, Jim and his wife have established the James C. and Tracey J. Bahen Museum Priorities Fund, which will support the museum’s student docent program, exhibits, staff professional development, planetarium programs, public programs, school field trip programs and much more.
“When I think back to the numerous tours I gave during my time at the ‘Exhibit Museum,’ I like to think there’s at least one kid out there who got bitten by the science bug and looks back and asks, ‘Remember when that guy made us touch dinosaur poop?’” said Jim. “I want to ensure that there will always be docents who can inspire kids by sharing a bit of that poop."
Jan Carline was a docent for several years in the late 60’s at the ‘Exhibit Museum’ as it was known then. The work fit with his interests in teaching children, and the fields of anthropology, geology, and the natural sciences in general. The job also supplemented the grants and other resources that he used to pay for tuition, housing, and the expenses of being an undergraduate student.
He nostalgically recalls how gratifying it was to help children better understand the environment and peoples of Michigan and expand their wonder and knowledge about the dinosaurs and other amazing life that preceded us on Earth.
He still treasures the opportunities he had to closely observe the artifacts and objects of the native peoples included in the collections and see at close hand the fossils and imprints of animals he read about in his studies at the university. Sunday afternoons sitting at the docent’s desk answering visitor questions or quietly observing the light filtering into the exhibit hall as it lit motes of dust floating have stayed with him as some of the best experiences of college life.
The Jan D. Carline Student Docent Fund will be used to support the Museum of Natural History’s student docent program, including but not limited to educational enrichment, particularly in the various subjects of anthropology, training, and other activities.
The museum’s dear friend John (Jack) Daball made a lasting impact on museum programs before he passed away in 2019. He fondly remembered spending many hours in the galleries of the “Exhibit Museum” as he knew it during his time as a College of Literature, Science and the Arts undergraduate and Library Sciences graduate student in the 1940s and 1950s. The museum continued to be one of his favorite stops when he was in town.
Jack made his first donation to the museum in 1998 and continued to make annual donations throughout his life. He enjoyed participating in the museum’s Buy-A-Bone campaigns, helping establish and sustain the Butterfly and Pollinator Garden, and providing museum field trips for underserved school children.
Jack often commented that he wished he could do more for the museum, so we began discussing the idea of establishing an endowment fund in his name. He decided to establish the Jack Daball Museum Program Fund to support his favorite programs today and tomorrow.
On several occasions, Jack noted how helpful the museum’s student docents had been when he visited, how important it was to him that we continue to care for the museum's garden, and that underserved students have access to the museum. The Jack Daball Museum Program Fund will provide funding for programs such as these in perpetuity, and the endowment and program support will grow over time.
“I didn’t realize that a donor at my level could have such a great impact,” Jack said on several occasions.
Before developing Alzheimer’s disease, Shirley Daball was a devoted Wolverine fan who never missed a home game and traveled to many away games.
Shirley was also a devoted U-M Museum of Natural History fan. She was fascinated from the first time she entered the museum, and made sure to visit it whenever she and her husband Jack were in Ann Arbor. When friends visited the couple’s home in Jackson, Shirley made sure they went to see the museum, saying “I want you to see my fossils.”
Shirley worked as assistant to the vice president of Comerica Bank. Jack recalled how fond Mr. Campbell was of Shirley, describing what a great day it was when the “fiery redhead” took over his office with efficiency and serene confidence.
In 2003, Shirley was one of the first donors to the Museum’s Butterfly and Pollinator Garden, and she always “bought a bone” during Buy-A-Bone fundraising campaigns.
Over the years, Jack continued to send donations to make sure “Shirley’s butterfly garden is taken care of." After learning of the impact his initial endowment gift would have for the future of museum programs, Jack thought it was important to establish a second endowment fund in honor of Shirley.
The Shirley Daball Museum Garden Fund will ensure ongoing care of the new museum’s garden, allow for additional plantings, provide educational activities and support for volunteer gardeners now and in perpetuity.“
Shirley always said the University should be proud of the treasure trove they had in the museum,” Jack said. “Now Shirley will be recognized by this special place forever. That makes me happy.”
David DeBruyn’s lifelong interest in astronomy began at a very early age, and he credits his work as a student planetarium operator at the Exhibit Museum (former name of the U-M Museum of Natural History) for helping him pursue his life passion and setting him on his career path.
In order to provide opportunities for students with similar interests, DeBruyn has established the David L. DeBruyn Digital Dome Theater Student Internship Fund at the new U-M Museum of Natural History, scheduled to open in 2019.
“This seemed like an appropriate opportunity for me to give back to an institution for which I still have fond affection, and also to share with future generations my passion for planetarium work,” said DeBruyn.“I hope that this gift provides ongoing support and can be built on over time.”
Following his graduation from U-M in 1963, DeBruyn was hired as the Chief Curator of the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where he served for close to 40 years. Although “officially” retired for more than a decade, he remains active in the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (which he co-founded), and as president of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association. He has written regular astronomy articles for the Grand Rapids Press for more than 50 years.
“Formal educational opportunities for a planetarium career are limited,” said Matthew Linke, UMMNH Planetarium Manager. “The DeBruyn Internship will help fill the need by providing a unique experience to learn about the operation of a planetarium.”
Michele Eickholt and Lee A. Green, MD attended U-M for many years as undergraduate and graduate students, and when Lee attended U-M’s Medical School. They have fond memories of spending some of their free time in those days on central campus visiting the U-M Exhibit Museum. Their relationship with the museum has continued in the decades since, including sharing the museum with their children and friends. They are loyal museum supporters, have attended numerous events, and have provided helpful input throughout the years. They’ve enjoyed watching the museum evolve and appreciate the new Museum of Natural History’s focus on providing access to U-M’s world-class collections with the latest scientific information.
The Michele Eickholt and Lee A. Green MD Museum Priorities Fund will provide support for the Museum of Natural History’s priorities, including staff or volunteer training, exhibits, public programs, the student docent program, planetarium programs, and school field trip programs, for generations to come.
Judy and Paul Freedman have spent a lot of time at the museum. Judy remembers her initial visits began when she lived on North Campus and would take her toddler son Nicholas on daily adventures, which included riding the bus to the museum. She fondly recalls spending hours at the museum watching her son explore the exhibits. The visits had a big influence on Nicholas, who eventually began drawing everything he saw at the museum. He would later get an undergraduate and graduate degree in Fine Arts.
The younger siblings became big fans as well. Halloween costumes included pumas, Triceratops, and other animals they grew to love, and those costumes are worn by their children today. Museum visits continue to play a major role in the Freedman family. Judy and Paul now bring their grandchildren who are big fans of the museum and they never leave without stopping in the Museum Store. These traditions inspired a love of museums and the natural world.
Judy was initially concerned about the museum moving out of the Ruthven Museums Building and she invited friends to attend the Last Night at the Museum event to pay tribute. When they later attended the VIP preview event for the new museum and witnessed the joy of the endowment honorees that night, she looked at Paul and said, “I want to do that!”
The Judith and Paul Freedman Museum Priorities Fund will provide support for student docent, planetarium, public, and school field trip programs. Judy and Paul envision their Fund being used to inspire and pique an interest in museums and the natural world for generations to come.
For more than 20 years, Amy Harris has been committed to the UMMNH. This has never been more apparent than during the planning and development of the new Museum project. To recognize her tireless efforts, the museum's Board of Advisors, colleagues, and personal friends have established the Amy Harris Director's Strategic Fund. To date, this endowment totals more than $36,000 in donations and pledges.
Amy and future museum directors will determine how the funds will be used to further the mission of the Museum of Natural History. The endowment and annual revenue will grow over time and be used in perpetuity for museum priorities.
The museum lost one of its biggest fans and staunchest supporters in Spring 2021.
Andrea Larsen Scott donated $50,000 to establish the Larsen Family Exhibit Endowment Fund at the U-M Museum of Natural History before the new museum opened in 2019.
As a child, Andrea’s parents and brother were avid “rock hounds” who enjoyed hunting fossils and minerals throughout the State of Michigan. Andrea recalled many vacations and day trips that centered around her family’s passion. And while her family hunted, Andrea enjoyed sitting in the car, reading her books.
She wanted her gift to support geology with an emphasis on Michigan rocks and minerals to honor her family’s avocation. Her gift supports a changing exhibit of mineral specimens displayed on the second floor of the new museum. “I have such fond memories of visiting the museum as a child, and as a Michigan student,” said Andrea.“I'm thrilled to make this gift in honor of my family.”
With her gift, Andrea ensured that future generations of museum visitors will have the opportunity to see and learn about the geologic treasures that were so loved by her parents and brother.
Exhibits in the new museum present U-M’s world-class mineral collections with the latest scientific information, and The Larsen Family Exhibit Endowment will provide greater flexibility for changing and updating the exhibits.
"Andrea has graciously given her time, expertise and friendship as the Chair of our Board of Advisors. This generous gift will ensure that her love of the museum is shared with visitors of all ages for years to come," said Amy Harris, museum director. "We can't thank her enough for her generosity."
Perry Pernicano recalls visiting the museum for the first time when he traveled by train on a class field trip from Dearborn. He remembers it making a big impression and being happy to rediscover it during his U-M college days and then eventually sharing it with his two sons. He and his son Victor began visiting regularly and supporting things such as planetarium and exhibit updates. He’s always enjoyed seeing the impact that his donations to the museum have had on U-M students, K-12 schoolchildren, and the community. Victor spent several years working as a student docent and planetarium operator at the museum, and recently graduated from U-M.
The Perry Pernicano Museum Priorities Fund will be used to support museum priorities, including new and updated exhibits, the student docent program, planetarium programs, public programs, and school field trip programs, in perpetuity.
We are sincerely grateful for Perry’s generosity and friendship!
Alyce Sigler grew up in Chicago and frequently visited the U-M campus with her parents. Her father was the volunteer Director of the Chicago U-M Alumni Club for 35 years, and instilled the volunteer spirit in his daughter. Their favorite destination was the "Exhibit Museum" to visit the galleries and rock specimens.
Alyce is a U-M alumna (BBA and AMLS) and a long-time friend and supporter of student engagement on campus. She reconnected with the museum when one of her scholarship recipients worked as a student intern here. Alyce decided that it was important to provide opportunities for students to engage with the museum for generations to come.
The Alyce K. Sigler Museum of Natural History Student Engagement Fund will be used to support University of Michigan undergraduate student programs and experiences at the U-M Museum of Natural History.
During her freshman orientation in 1958, general science major Eileen Starr discovered the “Exhibit Museum,” and immediately asked for a job. The only student position that offered enough hours was as a student operator of the soon-to-be installed Spitz A-1 planetarium. She accepted it and became the museum’s first student planetarium operator.
Eileen credited her tenure as a U-M Museum of Natural History student docent for directing her life course, which included working as either a planetarium director or a teacher of Earth Science classes in cities across the country.
Nearly 60 years later, Eileen recognized her life in science by establishing an endowment fund to support hands-on science learning opportunities at the museum, in perpetuity.
The Dr. Eileen Starr Hands-On Science Fund will be used to cover expenses specifically related to providing opportunities for U-M undergraduate students to develop and facilitate hands-on science experiences for museum visitors and program participants.
“I established this fund so that students can better learn how to create successful hands-on science activities for when they are teachers, or when they become parents,” Eileen said. “As a teacher and past science center director, I know hands-on activities are not always easy to create. The more practice, the better.”
Eileen passed away in Fall 2020. Generations of students and museum visitors will benefit from her thoughtful generosity.
In celebration of the opening of the new University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, her 50th birthday, and her 20th year of working at the museum, Assistant Director for Education Kira Berman made the lead gift to establish the Ypsilanti Community Schools Museum Program Fund.
Kira is deeply proud of the museum’s new home in the state-of-the-art Biological Sciences Building and was overjoyed to see thousands of schoolchildren visit the museum after the April 2019 grand opening and before the COVID-19 pandemic crisis began. A proud Ypsilanti resident and former school board member, Kira wants to ensure that students in Ypsilanti have access to the museum in perpetuity, whether onsite where they can see into Biodiversity and Fossil Prep Labs, talk to scientists about their research, and participate in hands-on science activities throughout the museum, or through virtual programs and opportunities created especially for them.
“I've seen firsthand the educational inequity in Washtenaw County. This fund is an attempt to correct one piece of that inequity permanently,” Kira said.” After all, what good is the beautiful new museum that I've helped create if children six miles away are unable to take advantage of it?”
The Fund will grow over time and provide museum outreach for preschool through 12th grade students with priority given to Ypsilanti Community Schools students.