GREENSBORO — Edward J. von der Lippe retired as director of the Greensboro Science Center in 2003, but his legacy and his vision remained long after he left the building.
“I am in the space that he lived in for many years,” said Glenn Dobrogosz, who succeeded von der Lippe as the center’s chief executive officer. “We didn’t change things. We just kept growing based on the foundation he started.”
Von der Lippe, 83, died Saturday after a prolonged illness.
On Wednesday, staff members at the science center recalled him as a prolific collector, a mentor and a fierce advocate for science education.
“Ed was a good educator,” said Rick Bolling, the center’s curator of reptiles and amphibians, who began working for von der Lippe in 1978. “For Greensboro and the surrounding community, that’s part of his legacy — him teaching the youth growing up here, and adults as well.”
Von der Lippe came to Greensboro in 1966 to run what was then called the Greensboro Junior Museum, a joint venture between the city and the Greensboro Junior League.
Under his stewardship, the center grew from a one-building, two-person operation to a 65,000-square-foot complex accredited by the American Association of Museums.
When he left, the center employed 23 full-time staffers, plus part-time workers and interns.
Twice during his tenure, city residents voted to approve bond requests to expand the science center, including a $3.5 million package to help build the Animal Discovery Zoological Park.
But some of his most lasting contributions were quieter. After the first successful bond referendum, von der Lippe opted to use some money to add a handful of small rooms where students could participate in educational programs.
“A lot of facilities would add more exhibit space, but he really wanted to expand the educational programming,” Bolling said. “And we fill those rooms, still to this day, with workshops and school groups.”
Von der Lippe loved animals, gems and minerals, and during the years added more than 10,000 objects to the science center’s permanent collection.
“It’s kind of like a mini-Smithsonian downstairs,” Dobrogosz said. “That was his true talent. He saw something and knew it had to come here, and he would exhibit it for many years. We still pull from those, mostly for educational programs.”
After his retirement, von der Lippe stayed mostly behind the scenes of the center he helped create. His family told Dobrogosz that he was in favor of the ongoing changes there.
“They wanted me to know that he watched — and loved — everything we were doing every step of the way,” Dobrogosz said. “And that he could not have been more proud to see that the museum he built was continuing to grow and to become more impactful to the community.”