President and CEO of Kansas Cosmosphere Resigns

By: From 13 News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From 13 News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center

Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center

HUTCHINSON -- Chris Orwoll, President and CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, resigned his position yesterday as leader of this internationally renowned, Smithsonian-affiliated space science museum. He had been President of the organization since March 2007. The Cosmosphere Board appointed Cosmosphere Director of Operations Dick Hollowell to serve as interim President and CEO. The search to replace Orwoll is slated to begin in first quarter 2012.

"Every year at the holiday season, I make it a point to take stock of myself and my family, and assess if we're each doing what we find most fulfilling," Orwoll said. "I've enjoyed every minute of my time at the Cosmosphere, but I really want to spend more time with my family and be part of the family pursuits I'm passionate about. I have nine children, and being a parent is the most important job I'll ever have.

"It's been a thrill to lead this organization and I can't begin to express my thanks to the staff, volunteers, donors and Board Members who have supported our mission of honoring the past and inspiring the future of space exploration." Orwoll continued. "I am personally honored to have been a part of this organization. I'm eternally grateful for the many friendships I've made with the astronauts and space pioneers who made it possible for the rest of us to explore the fascinating worlds beyond Earth."

Steve Martens, Chairman of the Cosmosphere Board, thanked Orwoll for his service and dedication to the organization, saying, "We sincerely appreciate Chris' leadership and guidance over the past years. His efforts to expand the role of Space Works as a space artifact restoration center and exhibit fabricator, coupled with his efforts to expand the Cosmosphere's interactive exhibits, have put us on the path to creating an even stronger organization."

"On behalf of the Cosmosphere Board, we want to make it clear there are no extenuating circumstances associated with Orwoll's departure," Martens said. "Every non-profit museum has felt pressure in this economy, and the Cosmosphere is no different. In spite of this rocky economic environment, Chris' contributions to the Cosmosphere have been many, including:

Design and installation of the Space Gallery at the Evergreen
Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Collaboration with the John Nurminen Group, LLC, to present the
blockbuster exhibit, "NASA: A Human Adventure," which opened in Stockholm in January and is moving to Madrid in December.

The 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 13 Mission, featuring Apollo
13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Mission Control Flight Director Gene Kranz.

The opening of two new galleries in 2011: "Investigate Space: Our
Universe," which opened in April and was awarded the Mountain Plains Museum Association Leadership and Innovation Award; and "Investigate Space: The Astronaut Experience."

"Living In Space," a live space science program touring more than
300 schools across the U.S. in 2011-2012.

As one chapter closes for the Cosmosphere, another begins, and we are extremely pleased that Dick Hollowell has graciously accepted our offer to serve as Interim President and CEO," Martens said.

Hollowell, a South Hutchinson native, was president of Hutchinson-based Kanox for 25 years, before its purchase by Airgas, Inc., in 2005. Hollowell continued with Airgas as a consultant for two years, before taking a position as vice president of operations for Denver Drywall Company, one of Colorado's oldest commercial drywall contractors.

Since joining the Cosmosphere in July 2011, Hollowell has overseen the full spectrum of operations from the front desk, gift shop and IMAX Theater to the curatorial functions, information technology and Space Works restoration division.

"People at the Cosmosphere are very dedicated, and I find that refreshing," Hollowell said. "The scope of an entire museum, from front desk to back-of-the-house operations and collections make for many dynamic opportunities. With the staff, volunteers, members, camp attendees and donors we have, there is a love for this organization that you don't find in most settings."

The Cosmosphere houses the largest collection of space artifacts outside the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Founded as a planetarium in 1962, the Cosmosphere has expanded to include the internally acclaimed Hall of Space Museum, an IMAX Dome Theater, live space science shows and astronaut adventure camps for children and adults.

The Cosmosphere will celebrate its 50th anniversary in another year.


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