When Charlie Trautmann ’74 went to work for the Sciencenter in Ithaca, N.Y., he was not just its executive director—he was its first paid employee. But he saw in the small, volunteer-staffed nonprofit museum an opportunity that combined three things he really liked: “science, kids and building things.”
Much of his 26-year career building up the Sciencenter, he says, has been about nurturing connections with other organizations and businesses around Ithaca, as well as inviting “people from the community to come to us with ideas for exhibits, for programs, for events.”
But perhaps an even bigger priority for Trautmann, who joined the Sciencenter in 1990, has been expanding access for children and families. “We want to touch the life of every child in our region, not just the ones whose parents can afford to get them here,” he says. But how to do that? “Any family that has a child in free or reduced-price lunch at school, in a seven-county region around us, can get a free one-year membership,” he says. He’s a co-founder of Ithaca’s Discovery Trail, a network of seven museums and a library, through which every local second-grade class takes a free field trip to the Sciencenter. He says the museum welcomes 3,800 second-graders annually.