McConnell steps down as director of Math and Science Center

GJ Councilwoman Teresa Coons to take helm.

It will be the end of an era in January for the Western Colorado Math and Science Center when founder John McConnell steps down as director and city Councilwoman Teresa Coons takes his place.

McConnell said it’s time for “someone else to take the reins” at the center, and he is looking forward to reclaiming some time for himself while staying on with the center to build more science displays and conduct more classroom outreach to students across the region. Coons, who has been a senior scientist directing research for St. Mary’s hospital at the Saccomanno Research Institute for nine years, is an ideal candidate to head up the center, McConnell said.

The center, a hands-on science facility for students at 2660 Unaweep Ave., started as McConnell’s brainchild in 1990 as a traveling presentation of science experiments he carted around after retiring to Grand Junction from a 30-year physics profession.

“It’s been about a 17-year process that came from the trunk of my car,” McConnell said. “It’s grown to a point where I can’t take care of everything that needs to happen.”

The search to find McConnell’s replacement began several months ago, he said, and Coons was offered the position a week ago after a month-long application and interview process.

Coons said she first heard about the position from an e-mail sent to her asking for recommendations for potential applicants.

Coons said she will have to leave her position at the research institute when she assumes directorship of the center, but she would like to form a relationship between the two entities and serve as liaison.

“This is going to be a new challenge for me,” she said. “I’m essentially going from conducting research to promoting research.”

Coons said she will meet with the center’s board of directors to discuss goals for the facility for her to work on, which will include her fundraising responsibilities and hopefully expanding the center’s outreach. McConnell said he would like to see the center grow to a regional educational facility and provide more adult education opportunities.

“I think one goal will be to acknowledge the critical role the founder John McConnell has had,” Coons said. “He has taken the center from an idea to something that is viable and valued by the community.”


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