Blogs  |  8.23.2021

Challenger Center Receives $125,000 Endowment Gift from Longtime Donors

Challenger Center recently received a transformative gift of $125,000 to our endowment from James C., and Mary L. Tyler in memory of Emily T and Alvin H. Little. Mary and her late husband, James, have been supporters and friends of Challenger Center, since our founding in 1986. We are honored to receive this gift—one of the largest Challenger Center has received from an individual donor—during our 35th anniversary.

In spring 1986, a few months after the loss of the Challenger crew, Mary was in her kitchen when something on the television caught her eye. It was June Scobee, Jane Smith, Marcia Jarvis, and Cheryl McNair on The Mike Douglas Show. The four wives of Challenger astronauts were talking about a big idea they had to ensure the legacy of the astronauts was not lost amidst the tragedy. The idea was to create centers that would teach children about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and inspire them through the awe and wonder of space.

Like many of their generation, Mary and her husband Jim were deeply inspired by the US space program. They were captured by the idea of a hands-on educational experience like Challenger Center.  So, Mary wrote to June, Jane, Marcia, and Cheryl. June wrote Mary right back and a relationship grew from there. In 1993 Mary and Jim were invited to Washington D.C. to receive the Challenger Center for Space Science Education Challenger Seven Award. The Tyler’s contribution enabled the Challenger Center exhibit and experiences to come to fruition in the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Kalamazoo, MI.  Mary and James were honored to receive the award and delighted to meet others involved in the Challenger Center.

As we continue to celebrate 35 years of inspiring students, we are humbled to have friends like Mary by our side lighting the way forward. By designating her gift to our endowment—the Challenger Center Legacy Fund—Mary helps to secure the future of Challenger Center. A strong endowment fund helps fulfill our promise and strategic vision to grow from reaching 250,000 students each year to millions of students each year. The more students we inspire, the closer we come to building a scientifically literate society where people of all backgrounds can change the world through STEM.

The Challenger Center Legacy Fund was generously established with a gift by Challenger Center Founding Chair June Scobee Rodgers. This crucial fund guarantees that our programming remains strong, engaging, and up to modern standards for years to come. It ensures that we expand our organization upon a strong foundation and helps us safeguard the vision of the original Challenger crew.

Mary’s gift to our Challenger Center Legacy Fund strengthens our organization and protects the dreams of future generations. We are so grateful for her thoughtfulness, kindness, and commitment to Challenger Center and the millions of students we serve!