Friday, September 22, 2023

Dr. Jeffrey Kirsch Retiring in June After 30 Years of Leading San Diego’s Fleet Science Center

L to R: Jim Barath, Berend Reijnhoudt, Jeffrey Kirsch at IMERSA Summit 2013, Denver.  Photo by Joe Kleiman
L to R: Jim Barath, Berend Reijnhoudt, Jeffrey Kirsch at IMERSA Summit 2013, Denver. Photo by Joe Kleiman

San Diego, CA, USA — Steven Snyder will take over the leadership of the Fleet Science Center from Jeffrey Kirsch, who is retiring after three decades as the Balboa Park institution’s executive director.

“For 30 years Jeff has been the driving force in moving the Fleet Science Center to become one of the premier science and education centers in the United States. So we as trustees have found it a privilege to partner with him through the years and it will be a bittersweet time for us to ‘say goodbye’,” said Carol Chang, one of the Science Center’s trustees.

“At the same time, we are delighted that we were able to select a rising star, Steve Snyder, who while filling large shoes, comes to the Fleet with an exciting background and much energy to take on this leadership role.”

Snyder most recently served as vice president of exhibit and program development at The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia’s primary science museum.

In a statement released Thursday, the Fleet pointed to Snyder’s contributions in redirecting the 180-year-old organization toward a “more dynamic, relevant, educational-based” focus and developing “new experiences and products to increase attendance and revenue while maintaining the integrity of the organization’s educational mission.”

A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Michigan State University (where he earned a Ph.D in physics), Snyder has also served as director of science and director of attraction development at Science City/The Kansas City Museum.

Kirsch has been at the helm of the Fleet during most of its 40 year history and he has been a transformational presence at the flagship, Balboa Park institution and in the community. During his tenure, which officially ends on June 30, the organization doubled its size (when it opened expanded facilities in 1998), quintupled its membership, updated its technological resources and emerged as a strong regional force in science education.

Kirsch also became an international leader in the production and exhibition of IMAX films and chaired the Giant Screen Cinema Association. The Fleet is home to the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater, which Kirsch recently updated with a new screen and a state-of-the-art digital GSX system, essentially giving the theater the capabilities of a digital planetarium.

“When I took on the job on January 1 1983 I never dreamed this was to be my job of a lifetime. But it was,” said Kirsch. “There are challenges, successes, and there are disappointments, but in the end there is the satisfaction of working with people who care about what they do and what they can discover. This is what happens at the Fleet every day and if we can help others make a discovery, which I believe we do, well that is significant. ”

Kirsch will continue working in the IMAX field and maintain his role as consulting producer on a film the Fleet is creating about the Panama Canal. The institution will unveil it as part of the Balboa Park 2015 Celebration, which marks the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.


Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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