Workman set the bar high

Discovery Center director has done a superb job

By The Mercury

Bob Workman, director of the Flint Hills Discovery Center, will be a tough act to follow. If there is good news in his resignation, announced Wednesday, it’s that he’ll remain in the post until mid-January and help the city search for his successor.

Then he’ll take over as director of the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University.

Mr. Workman has done a little of everything and a lot of good for the Discovery Center and for Manhattan in the roughly three years he’s been here. He became the museum’s director before ground was broken for it, and he’s overseen all aspects of its development. His greatest contribution, however, might be in giving the Discovery Center credibility that has helped it become both a learning center for people of all ages and a regional attraction.

Yes, it’s still a source of derision among some segments of the population, especially diehard opponents of the entire downtown redevelopment and folks who questioned the wisdom of investing in what they dismissed as little more than a grass museum.

That the Discovery Center is much more than a museum isn’t entirely the result of Mr. Workman’s efforts; researchers in many fields have contributed to its exhibits, as have artists, designers and individuals who know how to make a good idea blossom into a stroke of genius. But Mr. Workman, having been present from the outset, has left his touch on just about every detail of the center.

It’s no coincidence that in its first six months, the Discovery Center exceeded both its 2012 attendance and revenue goals; in fact, revenue has exceeded the year’s projected expenses. Through October, more than 46,000 — tourists and visitors to our town as well as local residents — have paid to visit the museum, giving it as successful a launch as supporters could have hoped for.

In an introductory story about Mr Workman in the January 2010 issue of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Topics, he said, “Museums are for people, and the Discovery Center will reach its promise when it enlightens children, sparks the imagination of teenagers, gives parents a dynamic way to learn with their children, and inspires grandparents to talk about their past with their grandchildren.”

It’s well on its way to reaching its promise, thanks to Mr. Workman. We extend our gratitude to Mr. Workman and his wife, Liz Workman, whose own local contributions include service as executive director of the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation. When they leave, we wish them continued success in Wichita.

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