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UW Holds Naming Ceremony for ‘Nip’s Nook’ at Geological Museum

December 18, 2018
man and woman standing together
Longtime UW geology Professor Brainerd “Nip” Mears and his wife, Anne, have been honored for their support of UW with the naming of “Nip’s Nook” at the UW Geological Museum. Professor Mears died in 2015. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming held a naming ceremony today (Tuesday) for the Brainerd “Nip” Mears Nook at the UW Geological Museum.

Nip’s Nook is the display hall to the east of the Geological Museum’s main hall that has windows into the museum prep room. The space has been named in honor of the Mears family to highlight their deep commitment to and support of the UW Geological Museum and the university.

Eminent professor and geologist Brainerd “Nip” Mears and horsewoman Anne Mears are longtime benefactors of UW. They recently continued their extraordinary support of their UW endowment -- the Brainerd "Nip" and Anne C. Mears Excellence Fund for the UW Geological Museum -- with a large additional gift that continues the endowment’s mission into the future.

Previously, they contributed $570,000 to establish the endowment, which was matched by the state of Wyoming for $1.14 million. The fund’s purpose is to elevate the museum's national prominence in geological research and education.

“Dr. Mears and his wife, Anne, are an institution in and of themselves at the University of Wyoming,” says UW President Laurie Nichols. “They have given so much to the university through their years of service and support. It is an honor to name part of the UW Geological Museum after Dr. Mears, who made significant contributions to our understanding of Wyoming’s geology and gave generously to the museum itself. I would like to thank the Mears family personally, and on behalf of the university, for their generous support.”

The Mearses have long been leaders in private support of the university. They contributed funds and raised awareness to construct the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena and Earth Sciences Building, among other things.

Nip earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from Williams College and served in the Marine Corps in World War II in the South Pacific. While a student at Columbia University, he attended UW’s Geology Summer Science Camp, where he fell in love with Wyoming and with Anne. He earned his doctorate from Columbia and then came to UW, where he taught for 40 years and also served as head of the Science Camp. Nip passed away in 2015.

Anne earned her bachelor’s degree in art history in 1947 from Vassar College and a master’s degree in art in 1956 from UW. The Mearses were active Morgan horse breeders and trainers for more than 40 years, and Anne was inducted into the American Morgan Horse Association Hall of Fame and is past vice president and lifetime director of the Continental Divide Morgan Horse Association.

“It was my great honor to have met Nip and Anne Mears many times after I arrived at UW in 1995,” says Carrick Eggleston, head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “They have been outstanding supporters of our department and of the museum for decades. Nip Mears had a tremendous impact on a generation of UW students -- I have Nip’s textbooks, ‘Essentials of Geology’ and ‘The Changing Earth,’ in my office. In the last decade, their support allowed us to a renovate and revitalize the museum, which is now visited by folks from all over Wyoming, from all 50 states and from 30 different countries around the world as well -- not to mention thousands of Wyoming school kids. We thank them both for their generosity and their long-term impact on Wyoming through the geosciences and through the museum -- all of which are on a solid footing long into the future.”

Today’s program welcomed back UW’s Columbian mammoth, affectionately dubbed “Nip.” Also called the “Rawlins Mammoth” or the “Union Pacific Mammoth,” “Nip” was a male Columbian mammoth discovered in the early 1960s by a dragline operator who was deepening a muddy spring in southern Wyoming. Paleoindian artifacts had been found at the site, including bone material, suggesting that the animal may have been a kill or was exploited after getting stuck in muddy sediments.

The UW Geological Museum is a vital part of the university and recently was voted among the top university museums in the nation. It inspires the public of all ages and educational backgrounds with an appreciation for Wyoming’s prehistoric past, fossils and mineral resources, as well as highlighting important geology and energy research by UW students and faculty.

“I couldn’t think of a better place in the museum to carry the name of Dr. Nip Mears,” says Laura Vietti, manager of the UW Geological Museum. “The space is extremely dynamic and is used as an exhibit space, an art gallery, a classroom, a reception area and an area of reprieve. Like its namesake, we hope to keep it an approachable, informative and inspiring space for decades to come. It is an honor and privilege to continue the legacy of the UW Geological Museum, and I can’t wait to share our visions for the museum made possible by the continued support of the Mears family.”

The Geological Museum features displays to illustrate Wyoming’s past environments, highlighted by a 75-foot Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) skeleton that dominates the museum’s exhibit hall. Another highlight is Big Al, a display of the most complete Allosaurus fossil ever found. Hundreds of rock and mineral samples from throughout Wyoming’s geological history also are displayed, including specimens that illuminate with fluorescent glow under ultraviolet light. There is an interactive terrain mapping program over a sandbox that projects the topographic contours onto the sand in real time as children and adults shift and build hills and valleys.

Thanks to the Mearses’ invaluable endowment, the museum recently was renovated and upgraded. These renovations were absolutely necessary, as much of the museum’s infrastructure was outdated, and some did not meet code. Not only that, but stale display technology did not age well, though it was new and exciting when first introduced.

Upgrades include exhibit changes that brought content in line with current science and updating displays with current technology, which makes them more interactive and more inspiring for visitors of all ages. Less showy, but just as vital to a modern museum, were the more basic upgrades such as up-to-date lighting, renovated staircases and entrances to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; updated environmental conditions; and the replacement of asbestos flooring tiles with polished concrete. Future renovations may include exhibits focusing on everything from the rise of mammals to Wyoming water to continued three-dimensional digitization of UW fossil collections.

The program included remarks by Nichols. The event was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and the UW Geological Museum.

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