Honoring Our Colleague and Friend by Helping Kids Access STEM Education

Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” That is how our dear friend and former colleague, Steve Atwell, lived his life.

Steve passed away suddenly on September 16th, 2014, leaving behind his beloved wife Karen Hunt and his children Stephanie, Emma and Hunter. His passing also devastated his colleagues at Discovery World, where Steve spent more than 13 years as the Development Director.

To say that Steve was the heart and soul of Discovery World is not an understatement. He helped the organization manage its move to an $85 million facility on Milwaukee’s lakefront in 2006. No one on the Board of Directors or staff possesses the amount of knowledge associated with the project as Steve, who was always generous with his time and input for his colleagues, his peers in the industry and potential friends or donors in the community. A tour of Discovery World with Steve Atwell was sure to result in new tidbits of information, and the visitor would most assuredly walk away with a clear understanding of Steve’s passionate commitment to innovation and STEM education. Steve led the fundraising efforts at Discovery World with grace and unyielding optimism. As things began to improve and Steve helped direct the efforts to get many “little wins,” he continued to focus on building for the long-term, reminding organization and Board leadership that we needed to establish a robust endowment in order to build a sustainable future.

With Steve’s help, Discovery World reduced our capital debt by more than $8 million. The organization has built credibility by delivering educational programs that Steve envisioned and generated the funds to execute. In late 2014, a Discovery World Board Member, Bruce Milne of the Milne Foundation, pledged the initial $50,000 to create the Steve Atwell Memorial Youth Scholarship endowment. Subsequently, our Kohl’s Design It! Lab partner, Kohl’s Department Stores, donated an additional $25,000 to the endowment, as did Discovery World friend and partner, Rockwell Automation.

When fully funded, this endowment will ensure that young people in our community can continue to find enrichment and inspiration at Discovery World regardless of their financial status. Steve understood that children with socioeconomic restrictions are often limited in their ability to gain access to rich cultural and educational resources like Discovery World. By removing the financial barriers that these children face, we provide urban school-aged children with a stronger and clearer path to success in education and in their eventual careers.

Steve’s commitment to providing opportunity for all will be part of his tremendous legacy at Discovery World and in the Milwaukee community. We have established a goal to raise an additional $400,000 between 2017-2021, which would produce approximately $25,000 per year in Discovery World scholarship support. These funds provide area young people personalized access to our STEM programs, camps, educational labs, staff, and collaborative partners.

For more information about how you can make a one-time gift or multi-year pledge to Discovery World’s Steve Atwell Memorial Youth Scholarship, or for more information about other ways your philanthropy can make a difference through Discovery World, please contact:

Jennifer Clearwater, CFRE, Director of Philanthropy – Discovery World | Office: 414.765.1972  |  Cell: 414.975.1327