Liberty Science Center Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Last night, the Liberty Science Center celebrated its 25-year anniversary and the grand opening of the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium. With some 350 guests in attendance at the 300,000-square-foot science learning center in Jersey City, LSC President CEO and Paul Hoffman touted the complex’s success and its promising future, which includes the development of the approximately $200 million SciTech Scity that is expected to open in late 2021 on 14 acres of land adjacent to the center. Along with the new planetarium, 12 museum exhibit halls featuring hundreds of attractions, K-12 lab classrooms, and the ability to simulcast live surgeries to students, Hoffman said the LSC will continue its mission of “turning on the next generation of scientists.”

Some 4.3 million students have visited the center, out of 14 million people, since its doors opened in 1993. In the last four years, attendance has increased by 225,000 visitors annually, or 53 percent. Hoffman noted, “We are the fastest growing museum in the United States. And we believe that the planetarium will grow attendance even further.”

The Planetarium, the largest in the western hemisphere, formally housed the center’s IMAX Dome Theater. This new exhibit seats 400 people, spans 89 feet lengthwise, and is constructed of 596 aluminum panels that, thanks to a covering screen, are seamless. The display system, which switched from film to digital technology, can produce some 281 trillion colors … “more than the human eye can actually see,” Hoffman said.

Jennifer Chalsty, a philanthropist and LSC board member, was honored at the event. She had contributed $5 million for the creation of the planetarium.

Josh Weston, former chairman, CEO and president of ADP (Automatic Data Processing) and honorary chair of the LSC, gave the anniversary toast prior to dinner, noting the vision of former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean for helping making the center a reality and honoring not only the center, but its staff who “make the place tick.”

Weston told New Jersey Business that he remembers when the shovels hit the dirt for the official groundbreaking. “Look at how far we have come in 25 years,” he said. “However, what we think doesn’t really matter as much as the impression on the 650,000 annual visitors, most of whom are kids. They get a perspective they will never get sitting in a classroom.”

Weston and his wife Judy were honored for their $2-million gift for the creation of The Weston Family Lab for Earth and Space Exploration, which is expected to open April 1 of this year.

Also honored for their support were: Betty Wold Johnson, who pledged $5 million to the center; Joseph D. and Millie E. Williams, who pledged $2.5 million to help build the Sapiens 2.0 Exhibition Gallery and SciTech Scity; Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop for SciTech Scity; and Stephen R. Howe, Jr. and EY (Ernst & Young) for their support of SciTech Scity.

Noting the crisis the nation is facing in building its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce, Howe said that SciTech Scity will be “truly inspirational” in developing the needed workers of tomorrow.

Hoffman said that SciTech City will be a mini-city with some 100 start-up science companies. It will have three additional pillars: the Liberty Science K-12 School, which will bring cutting-edge science and technology education to Jersey City; Edge Works, a re-imagination of today’s workplace with more than 80,000 square feet of research labs, private studios, open workspaces, and a conference center; and Scholars Village, a purposeful mix of student housing for graduate students in STEM fields and longer-term residences for entrepreneurs, scientists, and families.

Explaining a bit of LSC’s history was former LSC Chair William A. Tansey III, M.D., of Summit Medical Group, who said the center emanated from a group of pharmaceutical companies in the state that banded together to make a statement about attracting people to the fields of science and technology.

State Senator Tom Kean, Jr., who was also present, added that generations “have been inspired by lessons here … by walking the hallways. Now, the next generation of experiences at the LSC is going to be transformative for generations of students. This place has been a center of innovation and it has a great future.”

When asked what his father would probably say about the 25th anniversary of the center, Kean, Jr. commented, “He would certainly say, ‘The LSC and New Jersey have been perfect together.’”

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