In the past few months, the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium atop the STEM Center (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) on the west edge of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott campus has become a destination, not just an attraction, for visitors to the Prescott area.
More than 15,000 visitors from throughout the United States and several foreign countries have toured or participated in educational programs at the planetarium, said Planetarium Director Eric Edelman.
Edelman recently announced that new educational programs called “Prescott Summer Night Sky” were being offered free to the public throughout Central and Northern Arizona. The domed facility will seat 116 persons in a 360-degree configuration.
Special invitations have been issued to high school and middle school students interested in STEM education.
Andy Fraher, director of STEM Outreach, explained that staff members from Education USA offices from U.S. Embassies around the world recently toured the campus so they could speak with knowledge to international students about ERAU facilities.
Virtually everyone at ERAU acknowledges that none of this would have happened had it not been for the support of Jim and Linda Lee, longtime Prescott residents known widely for their philanthropic generosity.
Originally from Texas but residents of Arizona for several decades, the Lees initially were instrumental in developing the Prescott Gateway Mall and The Ranch residential area on the eastern edge of the city. Jim Lee also sits on a steering committee and the board of visitors for ERAU.
The Lees are generous contributors to music and performing arts throughout the community, too, including the Prescott POPS Symphony and the Yavapai Symphony Association.
Lee is outspoken in his support of the university. “The future of Prescott cannot be separated from the future of ERAU.”
ERAU Chancellor Dr. Frank Ayers has publically expressed gratitude to the Lees. He recently said, “The Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium will be both an Embry-Riddle and community treasure. It helps open a pathway to STEM education for so many young people. It also brings the community together to learn about our universe, our planet and the sciences in a fun and meaningful way. I can’t say enough about how we appreciate the support of Jim and Linda. Over the years, they have given of their time, talent and treasure for our great scholar athletes, the campus Board of Visitors and now, the planetarium.”
ERAU Executive Director of Philanthropy Steve Bobinsky also praised the Lees. “Jim and Linda Lee contributed a significant gift when the STEM Center was in its planning stages. Because of their generosity – that first gift to the STEM Center Capital Campaign – the university was able to leverage their gift into a much larger community, state and national investment.
Bobinsky continued, “Their additional support made it possible to create a community attraction, the planetarium, that will carry their name and will inspire and educate generations of students not just in the quad city area but far beyond.” QCBN
By Ray Newton