July 29, 2008 – Spencer F. Eccles, chairman and CEO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, made an unexpected announcement today to 600 guests during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Utah Museum of Natural History at the Rio Tinto Center. Mr. Eccles delivered the exciting news of the foundation’s $5 million last-dollar, “capstone” challenge grant just moments prior to program guests putting shovels into the ground.
“We hope our challenge grant will capitalize on the growing momentum of the campaign and help the museum successfully launch the final phase of fundraising-ramping it up ‘full speed ahead’ to motivate many more people to get involved and be as generous as possible,” said Mr. Eccles following a round of applause. “We are delighted to join others in conveying our enthusiastic support for the new Utah Museum of Natural History, knowing it will be a world-class resource for Utah’s citizens. This premier museum will offer unique educational experiences for generations to come … touching the lives of untold numbers of individuals and families, school children and teachers, scientists and artists, and worldwide researchers.”
Mr. Eccles thanked the many individuals and organizations who have come to the table already for this project, including the federal government, the Utah state legislature, Rio Tinto, and other Eccles family foundations, including the Emma Eccles Jones and Willard L. Eccles foundations. Reflecting on the overall support from the Eccles foundations, founded by his aunts and uncles, Mr. Eccles said, “I think they would be thrilled to see that together – as continuing extensions of the David and Ellen Eccles family of Logan – their foundations are making an unprecedented difference in bringing the dream of this new museum to reality for Utah’s citizens.”
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony signals the beginning of construction on the building and also the beginning of the final phase of the project’s fundraising. To date, $81 million has been committed to the project, with $22 million yet to be raised. This grant serves as a last-dollar challenge – the “capstone” to the campaign – which means the museum will need to raise $17 million over the next three years to qualify for the $5 million Eccles grant.
University of Utah President Michael K. Young thanked the foundation for its role as “an invaluable partner with the University of Utah and our entire state in so many vital projects.” He acknowledged the impact of a grant of this magnitude, representing nearly 25% of the remaining goal and stressing that “the University couldn’t be more honored than to have this generous grant help us wrap up the campaign for the new museum building and its exhibits.”
Young continued, “As a capstone challenge, this remarkable gift undoubtedly will motivate and inspire others to help us complete this museum. As has so often been the case, the Eccles’ generosity promises to bring extraordinary learning opportunities to all Utahans. We are deeply grateful for their kindness and commitment.”
According to museum executive director Sarah George, the $5 million last-dollar challenge grant is “the most wonderful and memorable groundbreaking gift we could have imagined. We are confident that we can meet this challenge, and with the grant’s ‘multiplier effect,’ the impact will be even greater!”
For more than two decades, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has partnered with visionaries throughout the state of Utah to improve the lives of all its citizens. During the past 10 years alone, the foundation has contributed more than $330 million to Utah’s communities through its grants supporting education, health care, the arts, community needs, and historic preservation and conservation. The foundation’s tradition of supporting the museum’s programs and exhibits dates back more than 30 years.
The new building for the Utah Museum of Natural History is scheduled to open in early 2011.