Around the Pier: Old Friends to the Rescue


The foundation that provided the original pledge that made the Birch Aquarium at Scripps a reality and two funds that have supported Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s aquarium for decades have given new gifts to modernize and restore aquarium components.

The Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, a $6 million gift from which started construction of a new aquarium-museum at Scripps in 1986, has made another gift of $750,000 for modernization of the life support infrastructure behind the scenes of the Tode Hall of Fishes.   Since the aquarium opened in September 1992, it has drawn more than five million people. All the while, the life support system for sea animals, corals, and plants has been operating non-stop. The aquarium has reached a point where parts of the system must be re-built, refurbished, or replaced with more modern technology. The gift from the foundation will fund that work and ensure that our fish will continue to thrive and visitors will enjoy our habitat displays far into the future.

For decades, the Maurice J. Masserini Charitable Trust and Samuel H. and Katherine Weaver French Fund, both administered by Wells Fargo Private Client Services, have supported education programs at the aquarium. Recently they came through again to meet a pressing need.

In recognition of their consistent, long-term support, two classrooms at the Birch Aquarium were named for the thoughtful people for whom the funds are named.  Since the aquarium opened, almost one million schoolchildren have participated in active, hands-on education programs in these two rooms.  Live marine animals in their salt-water habitats are housed near the classrooms.  With the toll of hard use and the corrosiveness of salt water, they have been in need of refurbishing and new equipment.

In January, the advisory board at Wells Fargo that makes allocations from the Masserini and French funds directed an exceptional gift of $90,428 for the complete renovation of the classrooms.  The Wells Fargo awards ceremony, where all of the non-profits supported by French and Masserini funds receive their gifts, will be held in the aquarium galleria on Thursday, Feb. 15. 

— Dyanne Hoffman

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