Nearly 300 Trojan Family members and friends boarded a chartered vessel to attend the dedication of the George and MaryLou Boone Center for Science and Environmental Leadership, a complex of houses on a hillside overlooking Big Fisherman’s Cove on Santa Catalina Island.
“I’m floating on air,” George Boone said at the ceremony. “Thank you all for giving me this opportunity — I feel honored.”
The celebration March 8 was the crowning touch for a project that had its groundbreaking in October 2006 and the shipment of six enormous houses by barge in August 2007. The houses are situated around a courtyard overlooking the water, each dwelling completely decorated and furnished.
George Boone is a USC Life Trustee and member of the College Board of Councilors. Over the years, the Boones have provided inspiration and dedicated support to the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and its mission to provide an objective source of marine and environmental science and to foster an understanding of the natural world.
In 2004 the couple made a lead gift to establish the Boone Center, which was complemented by other USC benefactors.
USC President Steven B. Sample spoke at the dedication ceremony and thanked the Boones for their generosity.
“We’re delighted that you believe so deeply in the vision of the Wrigley Institute and in the mission of USC that you have allowed us to borrow your name for such an important center,” he said.
USC College Dean Howard Gillman commended everyone who made this complex project a reality.
“There is no better example of what we can all accomplish by working together than this wonderful center,” Gillman said.
The Boone Center is intended to serve as a “Camp David for the environment” — an upscale setting for small science meetings, environmental leadership and planning retreats, training programs, high-profile conferences on environmental topics, and environmental conflict resolution. The Boone Center will be managed by the Wrigley Institute.
Anthony Michaels, outgoing director of the institute, has been part of the Boone Center project from its inception. He has said that the new center will offer an “island effect” that will help people work together.
“We know from experience that when scientists meet at marine labs, they find ways to collaborate that are often more creative and productive than would occur elsewhere,” Michaels said. “We want to create that same sort of environment here for scholars in other fields and with other members of society to find solutions to the really difficult environmental challenges that we now face.”
The Boone Center is comprised of six houses with a total of 15 bedrooms, a central meeting hall and a videoconferencing center in the main laboratory building. Visitors to the Boone Center will have the conveniences of a conference center and university campus — including access to the Internet, food service and other modern conveniences — in an island setting. Meals will be provided at the central dining hall of the Wrigley Marine Science Center.
The houses were built at Los Angeles’ Terminal Island while the foundations were constructed across the water at the USC research center.
In August 2007 the houses were ferried by barge and tug across the San Pedro Channel, unloaded on the Catalina waterfront, hauled up a steep roadway by a semi-trailer and placed on their steel-and-cement foundations. The move was completed Aug. 30 when workers welded the largest of the six houses to its foundation.
The dedication ceremony had the blessing of perfect weather and smooth sailing between the San Pedro waterfront and the Wrigley Marine Science Center.
Delta Murphy, the chair of the Wrigley Institute advisory board, closed the dedication as champagne was poured.
“This is only the beginning,” she said. “We are going on a grand and glorious trip and we hope you all will join us.”