Hanle leaving Science Center after 8 years at helm Some disappointments amid the achievements

November 17, 1995|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

Paul Hanle, the Maryland Science Center executive director who is credited with helping build its reputation as a major Inner Harbor attraction, is resigning.

Dr. Hanle, 48, notified the Science Center's board of his intentions yesterday, but agreed to remain for at least a few weeks until an acting director is appointed. He declined to elaborate on job prospects beyond saying that he would seek a science-related position.

"It's time for new blood," he said. "I'm ready for new opportunities in science education and science policy."

Dr. Hanle acknowledged in an interview that the center has fallen short of his expectations despite such accomplishments during his eight-year tenure as the opening of the pioneering IMAX theater and an increase in attendance from 300,000 to 500,000 people annually.

Coming from an associate director's slot at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Dr. Hanle entered the Baltimore job determined to build the Science Center's annual attendance to 1 million.

Although the Science Center became the Inner Harbor's first attraction when it opened in 1976, it never took off as did Harborplace and the National Aquarium, which now draws 1.5 million visitors a year.

Dr. Hanle blamed that on a failure to win over influential community leaders who help shape public opinion, not to any lack of the center's inherent public appeal.

"My successor has an opportunity to raise the image of the Science Center in a way that I have not been able to achieve, improving the positive impression of the Science Center as a major contributor to this community," he said. "I think it's been undervalued perhaps."

The Science Center is not self-sustaining, as is the aquarium, but it does draw 75 percent of its $6.5 million budget from earned revenue.

It relies on private money for 20 percent of its budget and receives about $700,000 from the city, state and Baltimore County governments.

Dr. Hanle listed among his major accomplishments helping to create a consortium of nine science museums now about to begin a major, multimillion-dollar traveling exhibit on women's health; improving exhibits and programs for schoolchildren; and a $1.4 million "Beyond Numbers" mathematics exhibit, which will soon travel to the nation's largest science museums.

Tom Bozzuto, chairman of the Science Center's board, praised Dr. Hanle yesterday. "He has blazed many trails, and helped position the Science Center as a leading attraction and choice for educational enrichment programs in the state," Mr. Bozzuto said.

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