A $20 million lead gift to the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium from Palm Beach residents Howard and Wendy Cox will launch the capital campaign to change the center’s name to the Cox Science Center and Aquarium. The funding will also help the facility add additional 130,000 total square feet of space for programming, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) awareness and education. The Coxs’ gift is the most significant single gift in the Center’s 60-year history and serves as the keystone for a $45 million expansion campaign.
“The Science Center has long served as an iconic educational and cultural resource for visitors of all ages and backgrounds in our community,” says Howard Cox. “Wendy and I are committed to helping provide it with the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. Home to the nation’s 10th-largest public school system, Palm Beach County is more than worthy of a top-10 environment outside of the classroom to foster STEM education and knowledge for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds. We hope our gift will inspire contributions to the capital campaign by others in the community and increase awareness of the new Cox Science Center’s offerings and value to the greater South Florida region.”
Expansion plans include renovated spaces, a new three-story science pavilion visible from I-95, new outdoor exhibition spaces and one of Florida’s largest indoor aquariums. As design and fundraising efforts continue, construction on the expansion is anticipated to begin in early 2023. The center expects to remain open for education and enjoyment during construction phases, with 2025 targeted for the grand revealing.
“This transformative gift will allow us to offer Palm Beach County residents and visitors the Science Center they deserve,” says Cox Science Center President and CEO Kate Arrizza. “This investment in facilities and exhibits will take our Center to new heights in terms of our visitor engagement and financial performance. The new Cox Science Center offers far greater capacity to provide cutting-edge STEM education programs both on-site and virtually through various digital platforms. In short, it allows us to empower the next generation of STEM leaders and truly fulfill our mission to ‘open every mind to science.”
The name change to Cox Science Center and Aquarium begins immediately. The Science Center will host its “Diamond Anniversary Gala – 60 Years of Science: An Electrifying Experience” on Dec. 4. The event will recognize people in the community who have supported the center over the last six decades.
“We are thrilled to continue the progress so many generous and visionary donors and visitors have made to get the Science Center to this pivotal point of growth,” says Wendy Cox, who is a member of the Science Center’s board. “The center has exhibited strong board leadership, staff and friends to enable this confident launch.”
The Cox Science Center and Aquarium at 4801 Dreher Trail North in West Palm Beach currently consists of an indoor/outdoor venue with more than 100 hands-on educational exhibits, a 10,000-gallon fresh and saltwater aquarium, digital planetarium, Pre-K focused “Discovery Center,” an 18-hole conservation-themed Mini-Golf Course and quarter-mile-long outdoor science trail. The newest additions include “Journey Through the Human Brain,” a permanent exhibit that features the most advanced neuroscience research globally and the Cox Amphitheater, which hosts daily live science shows, seasonal laser shows and special event programming.