We are sad to report to our community the untimely death of our dear colleague and friend, Alan J. Friedman, who died on Sunday, May 4, 2012 after a short illness. Alan was the inspiration behind the National Center’s SENCER-ISE initiative and was also its founding project director. Meeting and working with him enabled us to turn, under his guidance, an undeveloped idea about partnering formal and informal science educational institutions into an ongoing project, funded by the National Science Foundation and The Noyce Foundation, with ten vibrant partnerships across the country. He was instrumental in shepherding us through the initial phases of SENCER-ISE and in introducing us to the leadership of Noyce, on whose board he sat.
Throughout his distinguished career, Alan held a strong commitment to making science and technology more appealing and understandable to all. He held a Ph.D. in Physics from Florida State University (1970), while also studying literature along the way. He spent most of his working life as a museum educator. He developed science education projects for children, teachers, adults and family audiences at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California-Berkeley, served as a senior planning consultant at the Conseiller Scientifique et Muséologique, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie for a new national museum located in Paris, and for 22 years was the director of the NY Hall of Science, where he revitalized the moribund institution through creating interactive exhibits and educational programs, a Science Playground, a Rocket Park, and a science career program for high school and college students. When he became director of the Hall in 1984, according to the New York Times obituary, he had found a flooded and empty shell of a building that had been erected for the 1964 World’s Fair, definitely in need of renovation and new ideas. In 2006, the year in which he retired from the NY Hall of Science, the museum had more than 450 exhibits and 447,000 visitors for the year. After retiring, he became a consultant in museum development and science communication and found his way to SENCER, much to our benefit. Alan was also active in many professional associations such as the National Assessment Governing Board, the Visitor Studies Association, and even the Modern Language Association, often taking a leadership role in these organizations.
David Burns, Executive Director of the NCSCE, has written a memorial tribute to Alan, whose obituary can be found in the New York Times. A special tribute issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: an International Journal was published Summer 2015 in honor of Alan’s life and work. The issue includes tributes to Alan, point of view pieces on civic engagement, science literacy, and early childhood cognition, project reports on higher and informal science education collaborations, and research reports on intergenerational projects and aligning after-school programing with Common Core Standards.
Other tributes can be found on our evaluation consultant’s, Randi Korn & Associates, blog, Scientific American’s guest blog post by Ned Potter and Stuart Fischer, and the New York Hall of Science, Lawrence Hall of Science, and CAISE websites. He will be greatly missed by all of us.