Willis McDonald IV funds curator position for Draper Natural History Museum

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Willis McDonald IV, founding chair of the Draper Natural History Museum Advisory Board at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, has announced a gift to endow the position of curator for the Draper. The endowment will fund salary and benefits for the position.

Dr. Charles R. Preston, the Willis McDonald IV Senior Curator of Natural Science of the Draper Natural History Museum.

Dr. Charles R. Preston, the Willis McDonald IV Senior Curator of Natural Science of the Draper Natural History Museum.

The Draper Museum would never have been created, nor flourished, without the steady hand of Willis McDonald IV.

The endowed position is now officially named the Willis McDonald IV Curator of Natural Science of the Draper Natural History Museum. The Draper is one of the five museums at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

“We are so thankful to Willis for such a generous gift,” says Executive Director and CEO Bruce Eldredge. “This gift, together with additional endowment contributions from other Draper Advisory Board members, ensures that we retain our current nationally-recognized senior and founding curator, Dr. Charles R. Preston, and that we attract future candidates at the same level.” Advisory Board members Henry P. ‘Rip’ McIntosh IV and Leighton Steward also made substantial contributions to the endowment fund.

Preston says, “I am deeply grateful that Willis has chosen to endow this position, and humbled that I have the honor of assuming the title bearing his name.” As founding curator for the Draper, Preston arrived at the Center in 1998 and worked closely with McDonald and the museum’s namesake Nancy-Carroll Draper as they developed the Center’s natural history museum.

“It is altogether fitting that Willis’s name, along with Nancy-Carroll’s, be forever associated with this marvelous museum,” continues Preston. “The Draper would never have been created, nor flourished, without the steady hand of Willis McDonald IV.” McDonald served as Chairman of the Draper Advisory Board until 2013. He has been a member of the Center’s full Board of Trustees since 1993.

A Cody, Wyoming, resident and an active member of the community, McDonald has been involved in numerous activities including the Boys & Girls Club of Park County, the Northwest College Foundation, and Christ Episcopal Church. An attorney, McDonald is a retired partner of White & Case, one of the largest law firms in the world with headquarters in New York City. He has remained a steadfast supporter of the Draper from its inception.

Preston has received national and international acclaim for his visionary leadership of the Draper’s design and development. A wildlife ecologist who explores the influence of climate, landscape characteristics, and human attitudes and activities on wildlife, he is widely recognized as a leading authority on wildlife and human-wildlife relationships in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Since opening to the public on June 4, 2002, the Draper has developed an international reputation for cutting-edge scientific research and innovation in communicating the process and product of science about the Greater Yellowstone region to international audiences. As a top-tier natural science museum, the Draper fulfills responsibilities in original scientific research, collections development, public education, and exhibits.

Leighton Steward, successor to McDonald as Draper Advisory Board Chair, says, “How fortunate that the Center has such a high quality natural history museum due to the efforts of Willis McDonald and current curator Chuck Preston. They have added a dimension to the Center that transcends normal static museum exhibits of fauna and flora.” He adds, “The Draper gives visitors the opportunity to see examples of some of the Yellowstone area’s inhabitants at the Center—including live raptors—as well as take environmentally enlightening field trips into the Greater Yellowstone region itself.”

As the first Willis McDonald IV Senior Curator of Natural Science, Preston continues his work building the Draper’s national and international reputation; advocating for the role of natural science museums as forums for understanding human-wildlife conflicts; fostering sustainable conservation strategies; and overseeing the museum’s popular lecture series, live raptor education program, and innovative suite of public programming.

For more information on supporting the mission of the Center of the West, including endowment funding opportunities, contact Director of Development Kelly Jensen, kellyj@centerofthewest.org or 307-578-4014.

Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently operating its winter schedule, open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday – Sunday. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s pages on Facebook and Google+.

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Dr. Charles R. Preston, the Willis McDonald IV Curator of Natural Science of the Draper Natural History Museum.

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