Drexel President John A. Fry and Academy of Natural Sciences President George W. Gephart Jr. announced May 19 that they have signed a letter of intent to establish an affiliation between the two institutions.
The announcement comes one day after the institutions’ respective boards of trustees approved the affiliation. Fry and Gephart expressed enthusiasm for the increased potential that Drexel and the Academy will have to make advancements in their research and teaching.
“We are incredibly excited about the academic potential of this affiliation for Drexel,” Fry said. “It provides us with an opportunity to move into a national leadership position in environmental science and environmental policy. Partnership with the Academy will help grow the scope, capacity and global reputation of the sciences at Drexel.”
The affiliation is not a response to the Academy’s recent financial struggles, according to a May 19 article in the Philadelphia Daily News. The Academy has had to cut employees’ pay and make several layoffs in recent years. Gephart said that the purpose of the move is to help make better use of the Academy’s resources.
“Several months ago, we determined that collaborating with a science-led, university-based partner would allow us to advance our science and museum more innovatively and comprehensively than we could on our own, and our choice is Drexel,” Gephart said.
The affiliation agreement is expected to be finalized within the next two months, according to a Drexel press release. The Academy will become a nonprofit subsidiary of Drexel but will remain a separate legal entity.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was present for the announcement, which he approved of wholeheartedly.
“The idea of two of our prominent organizations in science and education coming together to advance Philadelphia’s reputation as a scientific leader is one that I support fully,” Nutter said. “The advantages are clear, and the city, our citizens and the natural and environmental sciences communities will be the beneficiaries.”
Fry cited a number of benefits that students will reap as a result of the affiliation, including access to the Academy’s collections and more opportunities for co-op with the Academy. He also announced that the institutions have already received a grant to help them plan how to combine their resources.
“I am extremely pleased to announce that the Pew Charitable Trusts has committed a $1 million planning grant to help us explore how to best leverage the assets of both organizations,” Fry said.
The Academy of Natural Sciences, located at 19th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is the oldest natural history museum in the U.S. and will celebrate its bicentennial in 2012. Its current endowment is $51 million.