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Among the honorees celebrated for their transformative impact on the Seacoast Science Center since it was founded 20 years ago were former Governor and United States Senator Judd Gregg, far right, and his wife, Kathy, to his left. Also honored were Howard and Phyllis Crosby and Paul Avery. From left are SSC president Wendy Lull, Phyllis Crosby, Howard Crosby, Paul Avery, Kathy and Judd Gregg with board vice-chair John Diamond in the back. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

Seacoast Science Center celebrates 20 years

RYE — As the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park celebrated its 20th anniversary on Wednesday night, it also celebrated some of the key people who have made the center a success.

Among them, were former governor and U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg and his wife, Kathy, who have been supporters of the center&#';s marine education efforts since 1992. Judd Gregg cut the ribbon at the center&#';s official opening in 1994 as Governor.

The most tangible reminder of their support is the Gregg Interactive Learning Studio, which has allowed the center to become full-service content providers of distance learning experiences.

Seacoast Science Center president Wendy Lull said the Greggs&#'; vision helped the center to see a larger future for itself, and opened doors to participate in national, and international, scientific initiatives.

Also honored during Wednesday&#';s &#';benefit bash&#'; were lifetime volunteers Phyllis and Howard Crosby and founding board chairman Paul Avery.

&#';They are the people who at critical points in the science center&#';s evolution, stepped up and when they did, made a transformative impact on the organization that has prepared us for what we need to do next,&#'; Lull said of the awardees.

The theme of the night was collaboration and how partnerships with the state, business, private donors and nonprofit organizations have made the center a success.

Current foundation chairman John Appleton said the center receives no government financing or aid to cover operating costs.

The center&#';s annual budget is about $1.5 million he said, with about 10 percent coming from the annual fund. The majority of funding comes in through memberships, admissions, camps and other fees generated.

Speaking at the event, University of New Hampshire president Mark Huddleston joked about how much the university has in common with SSC.

&#';We also get no money from the state of New Hampshire,&#'; Huddleston said.

He said the science center helps to engage both the next generation of students who will attend UNH to study marine sciences, and current students, and not just in sciences.

He said SSC also works with the art department, history department and the office of engagement and academic outreach to connect the work of the university with younger students.

Like many others who spoke, Tom Burack, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Sciences, said he has been coming to the SSC since his children were young.

&#';It is an incredible place to come learn and experience and maybe leave with a few wet sneakers,&#'; Burack said.

Since 1992, DES has funded a total of 17 different projects totaling $300,000 to assist with the evolution of the facility.

The accomplishments of the facility through partnerships were highlighted by the speakers, from dealing with invasive species to developing distance learning programs on hermit crabs that have been used in classrooms as far away as Australia.

John Appleton, current chairman of the foundation board, said so far this year the center has hosted over 1,000 field trips representing about 27,000 students.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.

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