Bill Sim dreamed of science education for all kids. Science accessible to everyone.
Sim, founder of Vernon’s Okanagan Science Centre, died July 4 at age 94.
“Bill Sim had a vision. His vision was other-oriented, to create a better world,” said Jim Swingle, current executive director at the science centre, on the organization’s website. “And he put in the hard work to make his vision a reality. I can’t think of a better definition of greatness.”
Founded 28 years ago by Sim, the science centre was a room in the basement of the old Tolko building on 30th Avenue and had no staff. All the work was completed by volunteers fueled with the love of science, like Sim. Bill and those other dedicated volunteers, including his wife Marg, worked hard and together they grew that vision.
Not long after, the science centre was finally able to hire its first staff member, Kevin Aschenmeier, who has delivered science programming to generations of Okanagan children, and continues to do so to this day. Still, wrote Swingle, Bill, Marg, and volunteers carried on with their work.
A few years later the science centre moved out of the basement and into a whole building of its own – its current building – the former schoolhouse in Polson Park.
Sim’s dream continued to grow.
“From a room in a borrowed basement staffed by volunteers, the Okanagan Science Centre has grown to host more than 25,000 visitors a year with planetarium shows, dinosaurs, and a range of exhibits designed and constructed ourselves, here at the science centre Bill built,” wrote Swingle.
“On any given school day, we’ll have in excess of a hundred school children attending our programs. Each summer, hundreds more children attend our science camps. Tourists and visitors come from around the world to visit a science centre in a relatively small town in the North Okanagan.”
In a letter to the editor in The Morning Star in 2013, Sim and his family threw their support behind a proposed cultural centre, sharing similarities with their vision of the science centre.
“For us, as members of the original founding family, to have a vision like the Okanagan Science Centre realized to such a degree is a very humbling experience. And, we see more for the science centre, much more. We have seen the science centre grow from Science on Wheels, where Starlab, a portable planetarium visited schools all over the province, to a temporary home in the Tolko building then to the heritage building that it occupies today. Like other worthwhile organizations serving and enriching a growing community, the centre also needs room to grow.”
There is no word yet on any date for a service for Sim.