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Science Center in Easton Marks 30th Year of Service

But Its Financial Future is Uncertain

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, October 30, 2013

EASTON, Maine—The Francis Malcolm Institute, formerly the Francis Malcolm Science Center, in Easton, Maine recently marked its 30th anniversary with a celebration and recognition ceremony.

Master of Ceremonies for the event was the illustrious and vivacious Larry Berz, director of the planetarium at FMI. In his own unique style of oratory, Mr. Berz introduced the ceremony in recognition of several area donors who contributed to the enhancement of the science center in general and the planetarium - or “star theatre” - in particular.

“I have the great pleasure and the distinguished privilege of presenting to you the greatest star theatre of them all, which has reflected more glory and credit upon the Pine Tree State, done more good for sky watching and astronomy in the Pine Tree State, served the county more ably than any other star theatre in the history of Aroostook County; the updated, upgraded, innovated, celebrated, star theatre Francis M. Malcolm,” said Mr. Berz. “And I stand here today, facing you on what may be a seminole day in the history of this facility. We come and gathered together this evening to pay honor to some very special people and organizations that have been responsible for the wonder that you see right amongst you. The enhancement of the audio/visual environment of this planetarium comes from the generation contributions of our public service organizations In Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield and Easton.”

Making financial contributions to the science center were; Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield Rotary Clubs, Presque Isle and Easton Kiwanis Clubs, Maine School of Science and Mathematics Key Club. Dr. Gregory and Louise Hamlin were also recognized for their assistance in the design and electrical upgrade to the science center's planetarium - the only planetarium in Aroostook County.

“These people and organizations are responsible for recognizing the need for change and the need for charity in its finest sense. May we all be uplifted by their commitments as they continue to promote the kind of community that all of us want to see. These folks have proven to me that all things are possible in Aroostook County and we want to see that stable in all our works, as well, too. May these people and organizations also be visionary in the depth of their understanding of the needs of our people and together we all say thank-you.”

Francis M. Malcolm, the benefactor of the Francis M. Malcolm Institute, was born in the year 1894 to his parents Mr. and Mrs. George Malcolm. Francis spent his youth on the family farm located on the border between the communities of Easton and Fort Fairfield. It was during the years of this childhood that Francis developed a lasting attachment to Aroostook County and it's people.

Francis received his elementary and secondary education in the classrooms of the community of Easton. Upon graduating from Easton High School, Francis went on to attain a broad variety of educational experiences in the field of educational administration. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ricker College and his master's degree at Cornell University. In subsequent years, Francis also completed advanced graduate work at Columbia University.

Francis Malcolm spent most of his working years as a school administrator. The majority of his career, approximately 25 years, was spent as a superintendent of schools in the state of Vermont. During the last ten years of his professional life, Francis was involved in educational administration in the state of Alaska. It was during his tenure in Alaska that Francis vacationed in the state of California and eventually invested in real estate property in that state. It was these property investments that formed the basis for the legacy that Francis Malcolm willed to the people of Aroostook County.

Upon his retirement from education, Francis moved to the state of California where he resided until his death in 1977. In tracing back through the life of Francis M. Malcolm, it becomes apparent that he was a strong humanitarian with a genuine fondness for the people of Aroostook County. Secondly, Francis Malcolm had a deep respect for his natural surroundings and he was an advocate of studies in natural history as part of the educational process. Through his will Francis M. Malcolm left Aroostook County a legacy that has touched the lives of many of Aroostook’s citizens.

Along with the planetarium, which is the centerpiece of FMI, there is also a large display featuring the many types of animals which inhabit the Northern Maine Woods and also a “touch tank” where children can see and touch live ocean creatures under the direction of science center instructor, Vaughn Martin.

The science center also offers snowshoeing, apple cider pressing and nature hikes at various times throughout the year to adult and youth recreation groups, as well as church groups, boy and girl scouts, and home school groups. Businesses are invited to book the science center for their company meetings to enjoy a planetarium, science or nature program to say “thanks” to their employees for their hard work.

Open for over 30 years, and used by 6,000+ students and adults each year free of charge, FMI, supported by the Malcolm Trust, is facing a critical time.

According to their website,, “Without $1,500,000.00 in donations to the Trust, the Science Center that has served students from County schools, home schooled students, individuals with disabilities, civic organizations, scout groups, and the general public, will be forced to close within the next two years. Plan a visit to the Science Center during regular operating hours of 9 AM - 3 PM during the school year, or by appointment, to see what the Center is all about. Please consider a donation to keep this educational institution available for future citizens of Aroostook County. As a 501(C)3 organization, all donations to Francis Malcolm Institute are tax deductible as allowed by the Internal Revenue Service.”

Contributions can be mailed to the Francis Malcolm Institute, P.O. Box 186, Easton, Maine 04740.


Top:  Planetarium Director, Larry Berz (standing) is silhouetted against the artificial sky of the planetarium at Francis Malcolm Institute (formerly Science Center) in Easton. FMI recently celebrated their 30th year of service to the community.           photo/David Deschesne

Bottom:  Approximately fifty people showed up to attend the 30th anniversary part of the Francis Malcolm Institute in Easton. Here, in the front lobby, a three dimensional depiction of the planet Saturn towers over the people, complete with a 3D model of its ice rings in tow.   photo/David Deschesne



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