From Modest to Magnificent

"The formative role of the museum in the lives of generations of children is reason enough to celebrate this 100th anniversary, but there are many more," said UF President Kent Fuchs.

From Modest to Magnificent

I’m delighted to be here and thrilled to extend a warm Florida summer welcome to all of you as we celebrate the 100th birthday of our beloved Florida Museum of Natural History. Let me introduce my wife, Linda.  Linda would you raise your hand?  Thank you!

I love how the video we just saw began with a boy and girl exploring the beaches and woods of North Florida.  It reminded me of all the children I’ve observed when I’ve come to the museum.

The little ones love to scramble around in that dark depths of that true-to-life cave.  The patient ones will wait and wait for a butterfly to land on them in the rainforest.  And everyone loves to stand at the center of the jaw of the largest shark that ever lived, the Megalodon. I think many kids decide right on the spot that they will grow up to be paleontologists!

Perhaps only a few of those children stick with that aspiration into adulthood.  But all gain an appreciation for our unique part of the world, the amazements of nature, and the science that helps it all make sense.

The formative role of the museum in the lives of generations of children is reason enough to celebrate this 100th anniversary, but there are many more.

It is here that untold numbers of Floridians have become better acquainted with their state’s rich natural and cultural history, from its Mangrove forests to its caverns and sinkholes to the rich heritage of the first Floridians.

It is here that so many visitors from Florida and around the world rediscover butterflies, and get a visceral lesson in the beauty and value of the planet’s biodiversity, in the Butterfly Rainforest.

And it is here that faculty curators have made significant scientific contributions related to the earliest history of America, the evolution of flowering plants and many other important fronts.  This legacy continues to grow through the museum’s leadership of the global biodiversity digitization initiative known as iDigBio, which involves hundreds of institutions and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

I’m grateful for the museum’s excellence and influence in inspiring and furthering education, deepening knowledge of human and natural history and furthering scientific progress – from Gainesville to the globe.

Moreover, I consider the museum a model for the University of Florida’s most important overarching goals …. of deepening public engagement … providing excellent education … research and scholarship that enhances fundamental knowledge … and faculty who are recognized as the best in their fields.

In its early years, the museum had a very modest collection, a home in the basement of Flint Hall, and just one full-time employee.  Today, as we celebrate its centennial, it is ranked with its peers at Harvard and Yale as one of the top-three university based science museums in the nation.

That is an extraordinary tribute to current and past generations of museum leaders, faculty, scientists, supporters and students. And, it is an inspiration to all of us as we continue our climb to the very best universities in the nation.

Thank you for providing that inspiration, and I can’t wait to see what you achieve in the next 100 years – along with those children who, thanks to you, become the next generation of scientists to unlock the secrets of the natural world.

And now, I am privileged and honored to introduce a brief video by my friend and colleague David Skorton.  I worked closely with Dr. Skorton when he was President of Cornell University and I was Provost. Today he is Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and a great fan of the Florida Museum of Natural History, as you’ll see in just a moment.  Please roll the video!