The Way I See It: Thanks, Sandi, for a job well done

Sandi Dixon steps down as executive director of Okanagan Science Centre, and Michele Blais looks back on her many accomplishments

“The smartest task I did as board chair of the Okanagan Science Centre was hire Sandi Dixon,” said Brian Guy, who hired the dynamic leader in 2003. She is leaving her position with the centre this week to pursue other interests.

Brian, with Summit Environmental Consultants, also made a great contribution to the centre, coming on board when the organization needed to jet forward to survive and thrive. Brian was able to bring new members to the board with energy, the right connections and leadership skills needed for the next phase. Summit Environmental remains a supporter of the centre. There have been many strong members of the board of directors over the years who have really assisted this gem in our community.

I am hopeful that the families of Bill Sims, Bruce Aikenhead and Jeff Mellows are proud of the dream they had for a science centre in our community and for it becoming what it is today. Their vision has exploded under Sandi’s leadership.

Sandi would be the first to say that it takes many great minds and people working together to accomplish what they have in the past 11 1/2 years; she is right, and a talented leader makes a big difference. There is a great team there including  my sons’ favourite, Kevin, who gleefully brings science to life and makes it so much fun.

With a “dynamo” at the helm, the centre has become a major tourist attraction for Vernon, as well as a go-to place for local children and youth for weekends, pro-d-days and the Scotiabank summer camps. Scotiabank manager Rob Fulthorpe describes Sandi as “absolutely wonderful and totally focused on the science centre’s agenda. She looks for new angles for fundraising and partnering with the business community to support both of their objectives.”

She has worn many hats in her role as executive director, as chief financial officer, operations manager —  a huge task considering the centre is in an old heritage building — programs manager, volunteer coordinator, fundraising goddess, and marketing magician, plus plus plus.  I am in awe of her many talents and she does these with grace, determination and always acknowledging everyone’s participation.  That’s why the Haunted House is a huge success year after year, that’s why we want to support the centre.

There have been many challenges along the way: financial viability, keeping the city involved, the building, exhibits, etc. and Brian describes Sandi’s approach as having a  “solution to every obstacle, she works with passion, and her enthusiasm for the centre is unmatched.”

Brian, Kevin and Murray Flock drove down to Vancouver years ago in a big truck and came back with exhibits that Science World no longer wanted but Sandi did.  Remember the keyboard — the type featured in the movie Big — and how fun it was to tiptoe across the keys? That was the beginning of the exciting exhibits visitors of all ages have enjoyed.

Those relationships to other centres remain strong and for the purchase of your local membership you can access 300 museums and centres, including Science World. What a great Christmas gift!

Sandi’s strengths are those of hard work, determination, passion, creativity, problem solving, intelligence, kindness and networking. Develop these and you succeed.

Thank you, Sandi, from all of us: the kids who come to the centre; the teachers who include a visit in their curriculum; the gardeners who visit Xerindipity; tourists; those who attend the lecture series; our area leaders for appreciation of this tremendous resource; and the folks who come screaming out of the centre on Halloween night.

I know that the new director will do a great job as well and carry the torch to the next level in the Okanagan Science Centre’s development. We are the only small community in Canada with a science centre, so let’s enjoy it!

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, writing on a wide variety of topics and appearing every other Sunday. She has worked with families and children in the North Okanagan for the past 28 years.

Vernon Morning Star

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