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Kathleen Straus honors her late husband’s dream with a gift to the Detroit museum.
Sometimes dreams take a long time to come true. And that is the case for Everet Straus’ idea for a Detroit science museum back in the early 1960s. Straus was an economist and a government employee whose work included some scientific projects. He and his wife, Kathleen, moved to Detroit so he could take a job with the DWG Cigar Company.
“Everet couldn’t believe that Detroit didn’t have a science center. He became involved with the Detroit Science Museum Society — a small group of individuals who campaigned and tried to raise money for such a museum,” explains Kathleen Straus of Detroit.
During the late 1960s and early ’70s, science became more popular and hands-on museums were being developed, she says. With support from philanthropist and businessman Dexter Ferry, the Detroit Science Center opened in a storefront in 1970. Sadly, Everet passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 1967, so he wasn’t able to see the science center he sought and supported.
The Science Center’s first stand-alone building opened in 1978. Kathleen Straus became a board member and served for many years. The Science Center was expanded and renovated several times and now has a partnership with the adjacent University Prep Science and Math Middle School.
In 2011, the Detroit Science Center closed due to financial problems but reopened with philanthropic support a year later when it was renamed the Michigan Science Center. The current facility is located near Warren and John R in Detroit’s Cultural Center.
Through the years, Straus donated funds to the Science Center and enjoyed visiting with her grandchildren and, more recently, her great-grandchildren. Last year, she decided to make a larger contribution of $75,000. The funds are being used to underwrite two of the Science Center’s annual free days when admission is waived for children and families. Each day, 3,000 to 5,000 individuals take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to tour the Michigan Science Center, participate in its special activities and learn about science.
In honor of her gift, a pendulum displayed at the Science Center will be renamed in memory of Everet. It was chosen because one of her great-grandchildren was fascinated with it when the entire family, including her husband, retired federal Judge Walter Shapiro, visited last November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Everet’s death. A plaque will explain the Straus’ family role in the Michigan Science Center — a commitment that began more than 50 years ago.
“This is the first such commemorative gift ever for the Michigan Science Center. So this is a love story and their shared love of the science center has been going on for longer than I have been alive,” says Tonya M. Matthews, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center.