Legacy Donors Help Fund the Future of HMNS

You explored the solar system. You had butterflies land on your shoulder. You were dazzled by the beauty of the best gems and minerals from around the world. You climbed mountains and swam in the ocean depths. You celebrated your grandson’s sixth birthday with the dinosaurs and inspired fourth-graders to like science. You’ve grown alongside the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and now you’re wondering how to help HMNS keep growing.

DSC05484If the museum has enriched your life, you may wish to consider a planned gift to create a legacy that will help secure its future. The museum depends on the generosity of its biggest fans to provide high-quality exhibitions and programs that keep pace with technology and scientific discovery. What better way to thank the museum than to donate a lasting gift through the Legacy Society like members Eleanor and Chuck Asaud? 

Chuck Asaud

Valued volunteers for the past 14 years, the Asauds share their considerable knowledge, experience and enthusiasm with the museum’s visitors on a regular basis and decided to deepen their commitment by generously including the museum in their estate planning.

“The museum is an important and rewarding chapter in our lives. We have made friends here, continued to learn and take part in meaningful work,” said Chuck. “The fact that we are able to work together at the museum is a nice benefit,” said Eleanor.

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Chuck and Eleanor met at college in 1954 and have been partners in life since that time, raising three children and enjoying fulfilling careers. Eleanor spent 30 years as an elementary and preschool teacher, giving youngsters a solid and caring foundation for future learning. Chuck, a dedicated scientist, made significant contributions in the aerospace and energy industries as a metallurgist, developing special products and exotic materials. Much of his work was highly classified.

Retirement brought Chuck and Eleanor to HMNS where they give freely of their time. Both are Master Docents and like to volunteer in the Cockrell Butterfly Center and the Morian Hall of Paleontology. “We enjoy learning new things, and working with the curators and other volunteers,” said Eleanor. They are also regular volunteers at fundraising events where they greet guests and make everyone feel welcome.

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Like most important aspects in the Asauds’ life, the decision to join the HMNS Legacy Society was a joint one. “We decided that there was no longer a need for me to be named as beneficiary in Chuck’s life insurance policy; I really don’t need it,” said Eleanor. “We know that the museum will put it to good use and that makes us happy,” said Chuck.

Mary Tour

Planned gifts can include bequests, retirement assets, life insurance policies, artifacts or the establishment of a charitable trust with the museum. Individuals who make these donations are eligible to join the HMNS Legacy Society and receive invitations to exclusive events, recognition in selected publications and are honored at our annual luncheon.

The process to sign up as a Legacy donor is simple and confidential. Once you’ve discussed your estate with your attorney or financial planner, visit our web site to sign up to donate.

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You’ve lived a lifetime with the museum. Help secure its future for generations to come. Join the Legacy Society today.

Frog-sicles Anyone?

The recent (and wonderfully unexpected) freeze in Houston got me thinking, I’m inside with the heater on and I’m STILL cold, how on earth do animals that live outside do it? Well…they freeze!

The most extreme critter-sicles that I’ve found happen to be amphibians. Take the Common Wood Frog, for example. It has a trait known as freeze tolerance. What this means is just what you think; it has the ability to freeze solid, form ice within its body, and basically hibernate in a state of suspended animation. During this time it has no heart beat or measurable brain activity, and its metabolism slows to a glacial speed! As the frog freezes, ice forms in its body cavity, drawing out the cells’ water and its liver pumps out massive amounts of glucose, protecting its cells from solidifying and turning the liquid in its veins to syrup (think maple). I don’t know about you, but having 50 times as much sugar in my blood as a diabetic does NOT sound like the start of a good nap.

After a few months of froggy deep-freeze, the Common Wood Frog slowly thaws from the inside out – its heart begins to beat, its metabolism jump-starts. After what we would deem an arduous slumber, this little ranid hops away to find the closest mating pool he can; the breeding season for these guys is only a few nights, instead of the typical few months! Talk about baby-boomers.

You may be thinking, as one of my good friends often does when I exclaim scientific facts, “Erin, that’s all pretty neat-o, but why should I care about a frozen frog?” Let me fill you in.

Scientists right now are using nature’s model to try and extend the shelf life of donor organs. The staggering fact is that, of the thousands of people on a waiting list for new organs, only a small fraction will get them in time. Usually, an organ, once removed from a donor, must find a new home within 6 hours of excision-even on ice-or it is no longer viable. If, through the study of cryogenics, we could extend that time to say even 24 hours, just think of the number of people that could be saved who wouldn’t have made it because of the distance between donor and recipient! If a donor’s kidney, for example, could be frozen and stored without the typical associated damage, surgeons could dramatically increase the number of transplants they perform every year.

Now, whoever said that science wasn’t cool never heard of a frog-sicle. I can’t think of anything cooler.

‘Tis the Season…

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The world’s largest
shell, an object from
the HMNS collection that
is currently on display.
Creative Commons License photo credit: etee

This is the time of year when we’re all thinking about what we’re giving to friends and family. Especially this year, when most of us are being more thoughtful about what it is we’re giving. Since my job duties entail the registration and processing of donations to the museum’s collections, I encounter gift giving all year long. But especially at the end of the year and this month has kept me busy! Currently, I’m plowing through recent donations of things as varied as Amazonian spears to a swan specimen to Native American pueblo pottery. All of these donations will enhance our collections and all of us in the Collections Department are most appreciative of our generous donors.

However, these are the most recent acquisitions. The Houston Museum of Natural Science wouldn’t be where it is today without nearly a century of far-sighted people who generously and intelligently gave entire collections of natural specimens and cultural artifacts. They entrusted things they had collected with passion and zeal to a museum that was just beginning to grow so that Houstonians could learn about the natural world around them. In the coming year of 2009, as the museum celebrates its centennial, you’ll hear more about the names of Attwater, Westheimer, Milsaps, McDannald but their generosity was the foundation of the museum’s collections.

A spectacular mineral specimen in the
HMNS collection.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lori Greig

And that’s what it takes – generosity. I wonder what our past donors would think of today’s natural history auction market? Fossils and minerals can fetch exorbitant prices, far more than most museums can ever pay. Would those long ago donors who thought so highly of museums as institutions for the public approve of specimens and artifacts staying in the private hands of the highest bidder? After all, these early naturalists, amateur and professional, were often wealthy and acute businessmen themselves. But they did give and the museum has been fortunate that that kind of generosity has prevailed for a century. Indeed, it continues today and our collections continue to grow.

So, I’ll continue to measure and count amazing artifacts and specimens and make sure each donor is properly acknowledged. It’s just my small part in witnessing how the thoughtful generosity of our donors makes the museum a better place for us all.