FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—December 9, 2011
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Contact: Emelia.Cowans@naturalsciences.org 
919-733-7450, ext. 305
More than 150 people gather in a surprise ceremony to unveil the new William G. Ross, Jr. Environmental Conference Center inside the Nature Research Center
(Raleigh) — In a surprise ceremony Wednesday, December 7 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh, more than 150 friends and family of former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bill Ross, gathered to announce that the rooftop Environmental Conference Center inside the new Nature Research Center (NRC) would be named in his honor. Ross led the State’s primary environmental protection and natural resources conservation agency from 2001-2009. The majority of those in attendance worked together and in secret to make this gift possible. The Environmental Conference Center will be a gathering place for public forums, environmental conferences and rentals for special events. The Center can hold up to 225 people.
Ross arrived at the Museum with Tom Earnhardt, Host of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina” thinking that he was going to meet with a researcher featured in an upcoming segment of the show that Ross will also appear in. Ross and Earnhardt were told that the researcher was waiting for them inside the Museum’s Coastal Carolina Hall and when Ross entered all of the guests hiding in the Hall shouted, “Surprise.” Dr. Betsy M. Bennett, Museum Director says the look on Ross’ face was priceless. “I am so grateful for the many friends and colleagues who chose to honor Bill Ross with their support of the William G. Ross Jr. Environmental Conference Center for his many years of work on conservation and environmental issues. Surprising Bill was so much fun.”
The surprise unveiling began with remarks by Earnhardt, who also moderated the event. Other remarks followed from former DENR Deputy Secretaries Dempsey Benton and Bill Laxton, Chairman of the Museum’s Advisory Commission George House, current DENR Secretary Dee Freeman, long-time friend Steve Smith and Bennett who invited guests on a hard hat tour of the new Environmental Conference Center.
The Nature Research Center is the new wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, scheduled to open with a 24-hour celebration on Friday, April 20, 2012. The 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 Museum currently 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 NRC to attract an additional 200,000 people per year. For more information, please contact Emelia Cowans at 919-733-7450 x305 or via e-mail at Emelia.Cowans@naturalsciences.org