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The Passing of Sally Duensing

ASTC is incredibly sad to share the news of the passing of Sally Duensing, a star in the science center field. The following was written by Dennis Bartels, executive director of the Exploratorium.

Long-time Exploratorium veteran and family member Sally Duensing has passed away after a lengthy hospitalization. Sally is an Exploratorium legend, and her work and legacy touches nearly every person who works at the Exploratorium, whether you knew her personally or not. She started as one of the first elementary teachers and teacher educators in what was known then as the School in the Exploratorium, and essentially grew up with the Exploratorium from its earliest days.

She was the founding manager of the Osher Program from its inception, after a gift from Barney and Barbro Osher following Frank’s death. She introduced the Exploratorium to so many other legends, such as Richard Gregory and Oliver Sacks. She did original research and exhibit development, including the famous Cheshire Cat exhibit. She was the consummate Exploratorium Ambassador, showing hundreds of guests the behind the scenes special mix of the organization, and was instrumental in the original Kellogg Foundation Cookbooks and NSF Starter Sets programs, the prototypes of our Exhibit Services, ExNet, and now Global Studios programs. Even after she left the Exploratorium in the late 1990s, she remained very close to the organization, by assisting as a special instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz with the Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS), and the field through her international science center work, living in Paris for many years. You can see Sally in action in the famous Palace of Delights film and in countless archival images.

For those of us privileged to know Sally personally, there were few who matched her enthusiasm for the Exploratorium and exemplified its spirit of boundless curiosity and optimism, open-mindedness, and generosity of spirit for every human being she ever encountered. You felt instantly her friend, just by meeting her. Her curiosity extended to every kind of learner and world culture. I cannot begin to express my own sense of personal loss, having learned so many essential values, history, and culture of the Exploratorium through Sally.

I know there will be many tributes and memories for Sally in the next days and weeks, and I encourage people to share them. I hope it helps many newcomers to our community to learn at least a little about her wonderful legacy that lives on at the Exploratorium.

In sadness,
Dennis Bartels