The announcement of the largest private gift in the history of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum was described as an “affirmation.”
Bob Ross, president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation, announced at a news conference on Thursday that the organization, founded by the late Edith Kinney Gaylord, will make a $3.5 million capital grant gift to the “9:03 Fund.” Through the fund, the memorial intends to raise $10 million for endowment and $5 million to update and enhance the museum. Thursday's announcement brings the campaign total to $11.1 million and will allow construction to begin this year.
The campaign's 9:03 Fund reflects the future and the responsibility that comes with it. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building occurred at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995. At 9:03 that morning, the responsibility of remembering and educating began, memorial officials have said.
John and Charlotte Richels and Mike and Susan Turpen co-chair the 9:03 Campaign.
“What this is, it's an affirmation by a very important organization in this city of just how important the memorial is to the city, how intertwined it is with the city, how it reflects what's become known as ‘The Oklahoma Standard' and how each one, the city and the memorial, are a reflection of one another,” John Richels said following the announcement by Ross at the Memorial Museum. “It's going to let us teach the lessons that were learned from that to a whole new generation of people. This is very, very important.”
The enhancements would include a change to almost every area of the museum. While the core story does not change, it will be enhanced by using new artifacts, evidence from the trial and new technology. There also will be a second-floor glass overlook “allowing us to integrate the museum with the outdoor symbolic memorial,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Gaylord founded the Inasmuch Foundation in 1982 to support charitable, scientific and educational causes that enhance the progress and quality of life for Oklahomans. Today, the foundation is committed to carrying on the interests of its late founder by supporting education, health and human services, and community enhancement.
Inasmuch Foundation board of directors and advisory committee members joined memorial trustees at the Memorial Museum for the announcement.
“It is wonderful that this gift will enable the Memorial Museum to make enhancements to the visitor experience in ways never dreamed possible at the time the museum opened 11 years ago,” Ross said. “I know Edith would be so pleased that her foundation will ensure that the story told here will continue to provide comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity to the hundreds of thousands who visit the memorial in the years to come.”
Susan Winchester was among those attending Thursday's announcement. Her sister, Peggy Clark, was killed in the bombing. She said she views the Memorial Museum as a way to honor those who died as well as survivors, rescuers and so many others. And she sees it as a way to educate.
After the news conference, Winchester, vice chair of the Memorial Foundation, talked about how her sister's family used to come to her house and they would all sit down at the table for “wonderful dinners” that were about so much more than the meal itself.
“Everyone would just sit there for hours and hours and talk and laugh and share fun stories,” Winchester said. “That's just such a sense of family that we got to share. I miss that so much.
“This today, keeps that memory alive, it continues to let her be a part of us and let us be a part of who she was and what she stood for.”
Patrick Gallagher, Memorial Museum designer and the project lead, told the crowd the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum has evolved as a global leader in the creation of engaging and educational experiences within a complex and deeply emotional storyline.
“Now, creating an even more in-depth exploration of the sense of justice served will build a legacy for the future of the museum and its important work in education and outreach,” Gallagher said.