Rowan said in a news release that alumni Jean Edelman and Ric Edelman made the pledge to help the Glassboro school transform its science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education by enabling hands-on discovery and world-class research at the fossil park.
The park will be renamed the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University.
The Edelmans’ gift, the largest by alumni in the college’s history, is second only to the $100 million that businessman and philanthropist Henry Rowan and his wife, Betty Rowan, gave in 1992 that saw the former Glassboro State College renamed for the Rowans.
“This gift,” Houshmand continued, “speaks to the Edelmans’ experiences as students here, the impact that our faculty and staff had on them then and today, and the trust they have in us to be good stewards of their investment. We could not feel more honored, and we promise to make them even more proud of their alma mater.”
Ric Edelman, who is a member of the Class of 1980, and Jean Edelman, who is a member of the Class of 1981 and university trustee, founded the financial planning and investment management firm Edelman Financial Services in 1987.
“We want our giving to have a measurable impact on people’s lives,” Ric Edelman said in a statement. “It wasn’t our goal to donate $25 million to the university. Instead, our goal was to determine how much money it would take to create world-class museum and learning experience at the fossil park, and that’s the amount it will take.
“We want the fossil park to be a world-class destination for families on the same scale as the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Franklin Institute.”
Plans for upgrades at the fossil park include a museum and visitor center, a fossil preparation lab, a nature trail, paleontology-themed playground, event spaces and more. Rowan said one highlight will be the opportunity for students and families to participate in paleontological digs at the site, helping scientists uncover fossils from the days of the dinosaurs.
“The Edelmans’ passion for sharing discovery and science will transform and expand Rowan’s capacity to educate for generations to come,” Houshmand said. “Their vision and generosity will make it possible for tens of thousands of students, families and researchers to explore a range of hands-on sciences at a globally significant site. … The Edelman Fossil Park will be an international science center and a premier destination for our region.”
Rowan paid $1.95 million for the 65-acre park in January. The site, located behind a suburban shopping center, is a piece of former ancient sea floor containing thousands of 65 million-year-old fossils from the Cretaceous Period, the university said.
Research at the park is led by paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, park director and founding dean of Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment.
Follow Eric Strauss on Twitter at @acerimrat.