On the evening of Tuesday, November 29, 2022, the Natural History Museum of Utah held its annual holiday gathering for its closest friends and supporters. This year, the museum honored its former executive director, Dr. Sarah B. George, and featured a surprise announcement by University of Utah President Dr. Taylor Randall.
To honor George’s remarkable leadership and service to NHMU, Dr. Jason Cryan and NHMU board member Rick Kay unveiled her official portrait by local artist Jeff Hein. In the painting, George is standing on the Land Terrace on the south side of the museum. In the painting, Sarah is standing on the Land Terrace on the south side of the Rio Tinto Center, where the windows in the background reflect the landscape to the south. It is a fitting site for a director who also is adjunct professor of biology at the U.
Dr. George led the museum for 27 years, a transformational period that included the move to its landmark new home, the Rio Tinto Center, as well as the dramatic expansion of its scientific efforts, and statewide educator and outreach programs. In 2019, Sarah transitioned to Chief Philanthropy Officer at the University of Utah, and at the end of December, after 30 years at the U, she will advance to the next stage of her life: a well-deserved retirement.
Shortly after presenting the portrait, President Randall took to the podium to announce a permanent endowment named in Sarah’s honor: the Dr. Sarah B. George Endowed Directorship.
“Sarah’s leadership at the Natural History Museum of Utah has been absolutely transformational,” said President Randall. “We have truly been blessed to have her impact.”
The Dr. Sarah B. George Endowed Directorship was made possible by an extraordinary gift from Jennifer Speers, one of NHMU’s longtime friends and supporters. Her remarkable $5 million contribution will permanently endow the NHMU Executive Director position and help to advance the scientific and educational work of the Museum in perpetuity.
‘I’m so pleased to be able to honor Sarah with this gift; it’s part of her legacy,” said Jennifer Speers. “I hope this gift will help the museum be able to attract the best directors that are out there.”
As Speers indicates, the Endowed Directorship provides essential support for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality leadership of the Museum over time. Speers’ investment in the U and the museum enhances NHMU’s visibility in academic circles, increases access to its research funding and opportunities, and ensures the overall future vitality of the institution.
The Natural History Museum of Utah’s current Executive Director, Dr. Jason Cryan, is the first to hold the Dr. Sarah B. George Endowed Directorship.
“I am more than honored – I’m really thrilled – to be the first named director’s seat,” said Dr. Cryan. “Sarah knows how appreciative and grateful we are at the museum for all she’s done. But it’s not just the team here at the museum, it’s the state of Utah. Her impact and her accomplishments are felt across the state and beyond.”
The museum is deeply grateful to Jennifer Speers for her remarkable generosity, and for her extraordinary commitment to the Museum’s mission, and her very fitting tribute to George’s leadership over so many years.
“This was such a surprise, and I am so grateful for the honor of Jennifer’s gift to name the directorship and for this wonderful portrait,” Dr. George said. “But these also are tributes to the work of the incredible team of staff, board, university administrators, and donors who made this transformation happen.”