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Updated 11:00 AM July 16, 2007




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Exhibit Museum gift launches “Expand our Universe”

With a lead gift of $50,000 from alumnus Lee Hess (BA 1968), the U-M Exhibit Museum of Natural History has launched a public fundraising campaign, “Expand Our Universe,” to upgrade the Museum’s Planetarium with a Uniview Digital Projection System.

Hess’ son, Michael was a planetarium operator as an undergraduate and now volunteers with Planetarium Director Matthew Linke in the design of the Uniview system.

“We are thrilled to have his generous help, and that of other donors, in bringing the Exhibit Museum Planetarium into the digital age,” says Museum Director Amy Harris. “The new equipment will transform the way in which K-12 and University students learn about astronomy and other subjects in our Planetarium.”

After graduating from U-M, Lee Hess attended both Stanford and Harvard before working for two of the largest fast-food franchises in the country. Later, Hess entered the satellite TV market. Today, he oversees his own investment firm in Columbus, Ohio.

Uniview will enable visitors to “fly” through space to anywhere in the known universe, examine the sky from the surface of Earth or from the other side of the Milky Way. Planetary and spacecraft images will be projected with remarkable detail. In addition, the digital equipment can be used to teach other subjects, such as archaeology, underwater research, cell biology or anything that can be visualized. Uniview is an all-dome video projection system featuring a high-resolution digital projector, powerful computer and databases.

The Exhibit Museum Planetarium opened in 1958 with a Spitz A-1 machine as its planetarium instrument. It was upgraded in 1973 with a Spitz A2-C, and in 1990, the current Spitz A-4 instrument was installed—the last significant upgrade to the Planetarium. The Uniview system will be in place in time for the Planetarium’s 50th anniversary in 2008.

The gift is part of The Michigan Difference, the University’s $2.5 billion fundraising campaign.

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