GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former school teacher Bronia Lowenstein, who has volunteered at the Florida Museum of Natural History more than 40 years, has established an endowment for docents to further the museum’s educational mission.

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Ralph and Bronia Lowenstein moved to Gainesville from Columbia, Missouri, in 1976. Bronia served on the Florida Museum associates board for 20 years and is now an emeritus member. ©Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

She began volunteering in 1976 when the museum exhibits were located in Dickinson Hall on the University of Florida campus, and has seen a great deal of change over the past four decades.

“People give money for different things and it’s wonderful that they give money for expansions and things like that, but I don’t ever want them to forget that education is what we do,” Lowenstein said.

Lowenstein has seen the museum exhibits move to their current location in Powell Hall on the western edge of campus, the completion of new permanent exhibition halls and the addition of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and its accompanying “Butterfly Rainforest.” She said the constant growth has been one of her favorite things to experience as part of the museum, and is excited to see what the next few years brings.

“In the beginning we didn’t have so many international visitors or graduate students from other countries, and the most wonderful thing about volunteering these past few years has been seeing all these different faces coming in,” Lowenstein said.

Lowenstein, who taught elementary and high school before moving to Gainesville, continues to work with children in school programs as a museum docent.

“The best feeling is when you see a kid come in and say ‘This is the best place I’ve ever seen!’ It really makes my heart sing,” Lowenstein said. “I hope that there will always be money for education because there will always be docents to help out.”

Bronia moved to Gainesville in 1976 when her husband, Ralph Lowenstein, was named dean of the UF College of Journalism and Communications. She was introduced to the Florida Museum by a friend and began volunteering as a way to continue her involvement in education. She used her experience as a school teacher to recruit other former teachers, retirees and wives of faculty to volunteer at the museum.

Florida Museum educators Dianne Behringer and Diane Milner say Bronia volunteers on Wednesdays leading school groups and also on homeschool days at the activity stations. They describe her as a kind, thoughtful and valued member of the docent team whose love for the museum goes back many years.

“Our docent program is an integral part of the museum’s mission to inspire people to care about life on Earth,” Behringer said. “Docents interpret exhibits, share knowledge about our research and collections, assist with outreach programs and lead guided tours for adults and school children. Bronia’s generous donation will allow us to provide resources and trainings to continue the growth and development of this invaluable program.”

For more information on the docent and volunteer program, visit

To make a donation or gift, visit


Writer: Nikhil Srinivasan, 352-273-2034,
Sources: Dianne Behringer, 352-273-2036,, Diane Milner, 352-273-2030,
Media contact: Paul Ramey, APR, 352-273-2054,