Blogs  |  2.29.2016

Meet Supporter Mary Tyler

Donor SpotlightIn spring 1986, a few months after the Challenger accident, Mary Little Tyler was breezing through her kitchen when something on the TV caught her eye.  It was June Scobee Rodgers, Jane Smith Wolcott, Marcia Jarvis Tinsley, and Cheryl McNair on The Mike Douglas Show.  The four widows of Challenger astronauts were talking about a big idea they had to ensure that the legacy of the astronauts was not lost amidst the tragedy.  That idea was to create centers that would teach children about science, technology, engineering, and math 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.  The idea of bringing a hands-on educational experience like a Challenger Learning Center to their hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan really captured them.  So, Mary wrote to June, Jane, Marcia, and Cheryl; June wrote Mary right back and the plan grew from there.

For Mary, a Challenger Learning Center would be an important addition to Kalamazoo’s educational resources – one that not only helped children learn about science, but that was inspirational.  Challenger Learning Center in Memory of Alvin H. and Emily T. Little (Mary’s parents) was established in 1993 and was the 16th Challenger Learning Center in the country.  There are now over 40 Challenger Learning Centers around the world.

Mary is still deeply committed to the education of Kalamazoo children and young adults.  The establishment of the Challenger Learning Center is a defining moment in her life, and she is still working today to ensure its success.  We are so grateful to Mary for bringing the awe and wonder of space to the children of Kalamazoo.