Rotary Minutes: Tom Krakauer

Today’s Rotary Minute was presented by Tom Krakauer, a Durham Rotary Club Member since 1985 and a Paul Harris Fellow.

Tom shared his notes with me so I could relax and just listen to him and not worry about taking good notes myself. Of the four pages of notes that he gave me, I thought it was remarkable that only two brief paragraphs even mentioned his role in the development of what has become one of Durham’s defining institutions, the Museum of Life  and Science.

I wasn’t always so. When I came to Durhamin 1984 as the marketing director of CCB one of the first major events I was asked to help coordinate was a celebration of the bank’s attainment of what, in those days, was considered a significant milestone, its first billion dollars in assets. This was to be a affair for the employees and their families. After much debate, it was decided that we would do it at the Museum of Life and Science. The event went fine but the museum that had evolved from the Durham Children’s Museum, was a little funky. In Durham we embrace funky but the contrast between what it was then and what it became after Tom took over is pretty astounding and something that is hard to appreciate if you hadn’t seen its previous incarnations.

In fact, there are only a handful of institutions that have participated so actively in Durham’s revitalization and have simultaneously been defined for such a long time by the leaders who shaped them. The three that come to mind are Tom, Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham Inc., and Reyn Bowman, now retired from the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. All members of our club, I might add.

But one of the purposes of the Rotary Minutes is to share things with the club that you might not already know. Tom is unquestionably a Renaissance man whose hobbies include birding, butterflies and genealogy.  In 2004, he retired from the Museum to take care of his wife Janet who had cancer. Janet died in 2005 after 36 years of marriage.

Tom was awarded a lifetime achievement from the Association of Science-Technology Centers, recognizing his role in promoting “Informal Science Education at the National, State and local levels.” The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce also presented him with its Civic Honor Award, its highest award.

Tom mentioned second acts. He has two, and they may be closely related. He noted the special relationship he has developed with Lynn Richardson, the librarian for the North Carolina Collection at the Durham Public Library, who the club met when she provided a program for us on the Collection. One reason why the Chamber honored Tom was his role in the creation of the Museum of Durham History.  Any of you who did your early voting Downtown know that the new museum’s current location is the old transportation hub, which is an euphemism for bus stop, in that tangle of roads between the Civic Center and Brightleaf.

Durham funky, no doubt about it. But let’s look at that as a good sign because we know that Tom and his passion for museums and Durham will make it too, something very special.

Tom’s notes with more information about his birding and unique qualification for the Vice Presidency of the United States can be found here in notes he used to keep himself within the 7 minute time frame…something some Rotarians have failed to do, to their everlasting embarrassment.

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