Science center chief, Andorfer, resigns

Executive director led $35 million expansion

`Now it's time' to go, he says

September 04, 2004|By Lorraine Mirabella and Bill Atkinson | Lorraine Mirabella and Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Three months after the Maryland Science Center unveiled the biggest expansion in its 28-year history, its executive director has resigned, the center's board chairman said yesterday.

Gregory P. Andorfer, who is credited with reinventing the Inner Harbor attraction by doubling its exhibition space and adding high-tech, interactive exhibits, said in a statement that it's time for new leadership. He was unavailable to comment further yesterday, science center officials said. Andorfer could not be reached at his home.

Science center officials offered little reason for Andorfer's resignation, other than to say he had been able to achieve his dream of turning the science center into one of the best in the country and that he was ready to step down. Andorfer is expected to continue working with the science center as a consultant.

The announcement, from Richard B. Talkin, chairman of the center's board of trustees, surprised some board members.

Van Reiner, a former division president of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and a board member, will be acting executive director while the board searches for a permanent replacement, a task expected to take at least six months.

The change was the latest in a recent series of challenges for downtown tourist attractions, including the financial struggles of the Maryland Zoo and the Port Discovery children's museum as well as operating problems with an adjacent balloon ride.

Andorfer was considered the visionary and driving force behind the science center's $35 million project, which included a 40,000-square-foot addition that emphasizes hands-on experiences and storytelling. It includes a dinosaur exhibit that invites visitors to touch full-size replicas and to dig for fossils. Science center attendance climbed in June and July, by 10 percent and by 33 percent, respectively.

"He accomplished the goals that he set out to do when he got here, to reinvent and transform the Maryland Science Center," said Christopher Cropper, a science center spokesman. Andorfer had approached the board some time ago to discuss his desire to step down, Cropper said.

In a statement released by the science center, Andorfer said, "Now it's time to turn the leadership over to others who will continue to enhance our services and our rise to excellence."

Reiner, who is not a member of the executive committee that handles personnel, said he knew only that Andorfer had initiated discussions with the committee "about changes involving personnel."

"My goal is to continue the programs and the emphasis that Greg started," Reiner said. "I don't want to just be a caretaker. I want to make sure the science center keeps moving forward, to continue to be a place where children of all ages can come and be entertained but still learn some facts about science."

Board members said that they were pleased with Andorfer's work and that he indicated several weeks ago that he had other plans.

"He has been the face of the science center," said trustee Ronald H. Fishbein, a retired surgeon. "He has made a tremendous contribution. I think he probably had something else in mind."

City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, a member of the science center board, was not aware of the resignation until getting an e-mail from the science center yesterday.

"I was very surprised to hear about it," she said. "He's taken us through the most marvelous renaissance at this fabulous facility, and he's as committed as he can be. He shepherded this project."

Gregory C. Pinkard, an executive vice president at Colliers Pinkard who served on the science center building committee, offering guidance throughout the expansion, also had not heard about the resignation until yesterday. Andorfer "was very, very creative on the building committee on the types of things he envisioned for the expansion," Pinkard said.

Andorfer, a TV producer who won Peabody and Emmy awards, was named executive director and chief executive of the science center in 1996.

Before coming to Baltimore, he was vice president for national projects and executive producer at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh. There, he produced an educational series called Everyday Science, which explored such topics as: "Why do curveballs curve?" "Where do bugs go in the winter?" and "Why does popcorn pop?"

He won awards for the PBS series Planet Earth and for Cosmos, a hugely popular science program that he worked on with Carl Sagan. Andorfer is credited with spearheading two expeditions to the Titanic, which led to seven programs about the ill-fated ship.

He opened a number of popular exhibits at the science center, including Outer Space Place, an exhibit on outer space; Kids Room, with interactive exhibits for children 8 and under; Body Link - a 2,000- square-foot health update center designed to make medical and health news clear - and the Human Body IMAX film in partnership with the Discovery Channel, BBC and National Science Foundation.

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