Cable ties experience to vision for museum

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Bill Luthy, board president for the Durango Discovery Museum, introduces its new executive director, Chris Cable, on Wednesday evening at the home of Jim and Melissa Youssef.

He started Aug. 6, but Chris Cable has been working toward his new job as executive director of the Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse for almost 20 years.

On Wednesday, Jim and Melissa Youssef welcomed about 40 people, including museum staff members, board members and longtime supporters, to their lovely home overlooking the Animas Valley to introduce Cable.

Guests enjoyed a Mexican food extravaganza with a taco bar with choices of beef and chicken, guacamole, salsas, lettuce, tomato and cheeses for toppings accompanied by beans and rice. Margaritas and beer put the crowd in a festive mood, and Mexican chocolate and coconut-pineapple ice creams ended the repast on a dulce note.

There was plenty of excitement with the Youssefs’ zip line set up, and a little semi-genteel match of croquet on the lawn. In other words, a perfect summer gathering.

When Board President Bill Luthy introduced Cable, he handed over the reins of the museum from Interim Executive Director Ashley Hein, who ably led the mad scientists, education outreach specialists, exhibit designers et al., for nine months. While she’s going to have her hands full with a new baby in October, she has had a lot of practice as a “mother hen,” as Jen Lokey put it while handing over a gorgeous bouquet in thanks. (Hein’s also the museum’s events guru, so she’s not going anywhere – except a little maternity leave.)

Cable’s journey to Durango started during his growing-up years in Boise, Idaho, and Sacramento, Calif. He worked his way through Idaho State University at the summer outdoors program, teaching everything from rock and ice climbing to river rafting. (He played on the college’s tennis team, too, and Discovery Museum marketing and communications manager Haz Said told me he’s still got chops – and lobs, forehand and backhand moves.)

While his bachelor’s degree is in biology, Cable worked only briefly in fish-hatchery research before what was supposed to be a summer job teaching outdoor pursuits at a remote Yupik village in Alaska took his life in a whole new direction.

After five years in the bush, he was hankering for a little more civilization and moved to Anchorage, where he spent the next five years as the assistant director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Anchorage. It was a learning experience on many levels, teaching him leadership skills, facilities management, fundraising and working-with-young-people lessons.

That experience opened the door to the executive directorship of the Imaginarium Discovery Center, a hands-on science experiential museum much like the Discovery Museum. The Imaginarium had tremendous success during his tenure, leading to a $122-million merger with the Anchorage Museum.

After both receiving and investigating grants through several major funding organizations, Cable established relationships with NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Department of Education and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which can only help the Discovery Museum.

After a stop helping Mobius Spokane in Washington through its design and initial organization phase, he found his way to Southwest Colorado.

During the next few months, Cable will be on a steep learning curve as he gets to know us, and we get to know him. He also needs to complete a $600,000 capital campaign for exhibits. One thing he, and the museum board, have learned, is that exhibits need to be refreshed and changing, multisensory, multiuser, multioutcome – in other words, you don’t get the same result every time. (About $450,000 remains to be raised by the end of the year.)

On the personal front, Cable, who was the primary parent to his two sons, just watched his youngest graduate from the University of Montana at Missoula. His older son, who lives in Anchorage, has made him grandfather to two little girls. In college, when he wasn’t pursuing his degree, playing tennis or teaching outdoor pursuits, he was taking gourmet cooking classes and he still loves to cook. Or get his hands dirty, because gardening is another favorite pastime.

He’s looking forward to pursuing his love of the outdoors in the Four Corners and farther afield, as he still has Asia and Africa on his bucket list.

He seems like a perfect fit for Durango, and he feels the same way.

“I’ve only been here three weeks,” he said, “but it feels like home.”

Welcome him to Durango when you see him.

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Happy birthdays wishes go to Sheila Burnett, Courtney Peterson, David Custer, Caysen Kirk, Jim Martin, Tom McCarl, Dylan Araujo, Pat Borgers, Vic Sanderfer, Beverly Brown, Diane Calfas, Alan Calkins, Dianne Williams, Don Spangsberg, Julie Williams, JennyWilliams, Dan Osby, Scott Wallace, Jill Carlson, Joan Kuhn, Connie Belles, Tom Kyser and Ken Fusco.

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While I’m on the topic of the Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse, staff members there never miss an opportunity to participate in community events, and that certainly holds true with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

They have planned a special Sunday, with Jeff Vierling presenting a “Human Fuel Lab,” about how to eat and hydrate for endurance sports from 2 to 3 p.m. The Bike Blessing will take place at 3:30 p.m. A nondenominational, multimodal blessing by certified celebrant Cheri Kelly may give cyclists a bit of a safety edge, and from 3 to 5 p.m. those who aren’t racing can take on the Amateur Challenge.

Gov. John Hickenlooperwill be there at 5:20 p.m. to recognize the museum for receiving the Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence in the creative community category.

While the events are free, and it’s a pay-what-you-wish day, remember that it’s not a way to look for a cheap deal, but a chance to show how much you appreciate this gem in our community.

To learn more, visit www.durangodiscovery.org.

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Celebrating their anniversaries on a bicycle built for two – I couldn’t resist – are Jeff and Dee Booton, Calvin and Kim Buffalo, Ernie and Peryl Schaaf, Duane and Gay Smith, Ray and Gerri Wilson, Al and Sandy Studer, Lou and Jane Steele, John and Stella Welcher, Paul and Susan Plvan, Bruce and Suzanne Rodman and Terry and Diane Sadler.

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