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Joining me at the Discovery Science Center's "Renaissance, A Celebration of Innovation" gala was ???????, left, and DSC President Joe Adams

Joining me at the Discovery Science Center’s “Renaissance, A Celebration of Innovation” gala was board member Tom McDorman, left, and DSC President Joe Adams

You can always count on guests attending the Discovery Science Center’s annual gala embracing the theme, and this year was no exception. Dubbed “Renaissance, a Celebration of Innovation,” I saw musketeers, beefeaters, popes, padres, knights, court jesters, and ladies dressed in long flowy robes with matching headdresses. There even a few peasants lolling about, and I spotted a Merlin in the crowd with a long white beard! One of my favorites from that period was Robin Hood, and I must admit, Discovery Science Center President Joe Adams looked the spitting image of the heroic outlaw. Thank you, Joe!!

More than 350 guests gathered for the costumed affair at Montage Laguna Beach, where “Black Death” martinis were offered by masked waiters during the alfresco reception. The atmosphere was electric as the crowd of supporters were extolling the honor that Discovery Science Center was accorded this past year – the National Medal of Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I found out later it is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a museum or library and DSC was one of only six science centers to receive the award since its introduction in 1994. It is also the first California science center to receive the honor. Now, that is something to shout about!

Once guests were seated for dinner in the Renaissance-themed ballroom featuring Venetian statues, white and gold columns flanked by Italian cypress trees and beautiful masquerade-styled table centerpieces, gala co-chairs Richard and Cheryll Ruzsat welcomed everyone and thanked the gala committee and underwriters for their commitment and support.

President Joe Adams and Board Chairman Dan Bolar handled the presentation of the prestigious Arnold O. Beckman corporate and individual awards, named in honor of the late world-renowned scientist, inventor, educator, philanthropist, and business and civic leader, who was a founding donor of DSC. OC Waste & Recycling was the recipient of the Corporate Award for their outstanding leadership and partnership on DSC’s Eco Challenge Exhibition promoting recycling and eco-friendly tactics. County Supervisor Pat Bates accepted the award, jokingly saying, “It’s not often government gets an award for being innovative.”

The Individual Award was presented to Jack and Mary Norberg, who have taken a very active leadership role at Discovery Science Center since 2007. I remember the year they chaired the gala and showed up in clothes made from recyclable materials. They are always fun. Jack commented about their involvement upon accepting the award for he and Mary. “We’re doing wonderful things here,” he said, “and we’re having fun doing it in spite of what I wear!”

The live auction brought active bidding on tempting trips to Lake Como and a week’s stay in an Italian villa, as well as a five-day vacation stay at the Grand Wailea resort in Hawaii, including American Airlines airfare. I thought the privately catered dinner by Blueberry Hill with special guest and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez (Ramirez was present!) was such a great prize. Sandi and Dale Dykema, who were gala committee members and underwriters, won the coveted evening for $11,000. The “raise the paddle” part of the auction to support DSC’s Adopt-A-Class program was brisk. The monies make it possible for an average of 70,000 students to visit the science center annually from all over Southern California.

DSC’s Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Jim Peterson and David Horowitz talked about the science center’s $22.5 million, 40,000 sq. ft. expansion, which broke ground on January 6 and will open March, 2015. It will nearly double the center’s size. Board Chairman Elect Rick Baily of The Boeing Company said of the expansion, “It will take the Discovery Science Center to the next level.”

The dance floor was packed, as it always is at this fun-filled evening, and the best news? More than $420,000 in net proceeds was raised for DSC’s Education Fund and its innovative programming. After all, DSC is ranked among the top science centers in the nation with a #1 rating for attendance per square foot and a #3 rating in educational outreach. Hear, Hear!!