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Matthew and Joanna Creegan
What they support:
Informal science education at Carnegie Science Center
Why it matters:
“At the Science Center, kids are encouraged to discover things on their own and explore what interests them.”
When he was a preteen, Matt Creegan’s father took him and his brother on outings to play ball and ride roller coasters, but decades later it’s the trio’s adventures at Carnegie Science Center that truly stand out. “My dad thought it was great for us to learn and grow through our own experiences, and not only in classrooms,” says Matt, a Penn Hills native. “That sticks with me, not just as fond memories with my dad, but as an adult it reminds me how important those experiences are for kids’ education.”
For Matt, now a technology leader in pharmaceutical research, it’s how he discovered the Buhl Planetarium, where, as a kid, he could “bring the stars in the night sky closer” and spend hours entranced by space travel. “I know I wouldn’t have found that experience anywhere else, school included,” he says. “At the Science Center, kids are encouraged to discover things on their own and explore what interests them. Because it was so much fun, my brother and I never really thought about the fact that we were also learning.”
That’s at the core of why Matt and his wife, Joanna, are committed to expanding the number of young people the Science Center reaches by doing what it does best: spark informal, hands-on, and think-outside-the-box learning.
The couple is also eager to make a difference in the place they’re proud to call home. Over the past five years, they’ve steadily increased their philanthropic support of Carnegie Museums, becoming Patrons Circle members and making significant gifts to the recently renovated Buhl Planetarium and for ongoing maintenance of the popular Miniature Railroad & Village® upon its 100th birthday. At the same time, they’re rolling up their sleeves as active volunteers with the Carnegie Museums Engagement Committee and the Science Center’s STEM Catalysts—two key groups of advocates who tap into their own networks to help amplify the work of the museums.
“I’ve made most of my career developing technology products,” says Matt. “You can build the coolest thing, and if nobody knows about it, it doesn’t do any good. With the Engagement Committee, for instance, it’s a mechanism to help get people to the museum, to let them know there are offerings at the museum that they might not know about that would genuinely interest them.”
Last year, the pair also served on the host committee for the first Carnegie Science Awards ceremony to be held virtually, due to the pandemic. Hearing directly from the youngest winners, says Joanna and Matt, reinforced their decision to pour their time and resources into the Science Center.
Joanna, a Beaver County native who works on the education and training side of pharmaceutical research, found the number of female winners, particularly among school-age awardees, to be especially inspiring. “I’m in the software industry, and while it’s no longer the traditional idea that science is for boys, you do see the division of mostly women in operations while the designers and product people are men. So, it’s really encouraging to see this next generation of girls coming up—they’ll be designing and building.”
Adds Matt, “Listening to the amazing things these kids are doing fuels me to want to get even more kids involved in the programs at the Science Center.”
As part of their gift to the Miniature Railroad campaign, the couple was able to memorialize Joanna’s father and Matt’s grandmother by having tiny figures created in their likenesses and added to the display for 10 years. Joanna’s father, a big sports fan, is positioned outside of Forbes Field. Matt’s grandmother, who was an electrician in the Marines during WWII and was, as Joanna describes her, “a tiny, feisty redhead who is a great representation of that blue-collar Pittsburgh tough person,” is standing in front of Klavon’s Pharmacy—a spectator to the women’s suffrage parade.
Says Joanna, “We appreciate that so many of the experiences at the museums were in place when we were growing up, and the educational opportunities they afforded us. We hope they can be even better and more widely used by even more kids.”
To learn more about giving opportunities at Carnegie Museums, contact Beth Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.622.8859.
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