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Bridge to NRC named for Museum Director Betsy Bennett

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Contact: Emelia.Cowans@naturalsciences.org; 919.733.7450, x305

In a surprise ceremony at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh, former Governor Jim Hunt today announced that the bridge that will connect the Museum to its new wing, the Nature Research Center, has been named in honor of Museum Director Betsy M. Bennett. More than 150 people attended the ceremony, including Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman, Co-founder and Executive Vice President of SAS John Sall, Bennett's husband and children, community leaders, members of the Museum’s Advisory and Friends boards, and Museum staff.

Betsy M. Bennett Bridge to DiscoveryThe 80,000-square-foot wing, slated to open in early 2012, will connect everyday people to research and show them how science affects their daily lives. The bridge, which will extend from the Museum's 2nd and 3rd floors across Salisbury Street into the NRC, will have one enclosed and one open-air level, both of which will contain educational exhibits. Construction of the bridge, which begins in February, is made possible by a generous grant from SAS and other private donors in the community.  “We are honored to be a part of this dedication,” said Sall. “As a technology company driven by innovation, we recognize the profound significance and impact of scientific discovery. We look forward to the grand opening of the Nature Research Center in 2012 and the inspiration and creativity it will spark among those pursuing a lifelong career in science.”

When the new facility for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences opened its doors in April 2000, Bennett had just entered her 10th year as Museum director. During her tenure, she revitalized an old and grand institution into a multifaceted research museum. “No one has done more for science awareness or science education in North Carolina than Betsy Bennett,” said Tom Earnhardt, President of the Friends of the Museum. “In just 20 years, Betsy’s spirit and enthusiasm has literally changed the face of Jones St. with the addition of two iconic buildings and state-of-the-art exhibits which she has championed. Betsy Bennett richly deserves to be recognized for educating both adults and children about the natural wonders of North Carolina and why they are critical to our state’s economic prosperity.”

Now, as the largest facility of its kind in the Southeast, the Museum attracts more than 700,000 visitors per year on average and is one of North Carolina's top field trip destinations. Bennett expects the addition of the new wing to attract an additional 200,000 people per year.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh documents and interprets the natural history of the state of North Carolina through exhibits, research, collections, publications and educational programming. Hours: MonSat., 9 am–5 pm, and Sun, noon5 pm. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the Web at www.naturalsciences.org. The Museum is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman., Secretary.