Major gift to promote new discoveries at Ashfall Fossil Beds

Released on 12/04/2007, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
, December 4th, 2007 —

A major gift will enable Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park near Royal to greatly expand its Rhino Barn. The larger enclosed facility will enable paleontologists to discover more fossils and enhance the experiences for visitors.

The park contains skeletons of extinct rhinos, camels and horses lying in the volcanic ash that killed them 12 million years ago and is a National Natural Landmark as designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The indoor facility will be expanded by 17,200 square feet to allow more excavation of fossils and to protect the fossils from Nebraska's weather.

The Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation of Omaha announced a $1.2 million gift commitment to the University of Nebraska Foundation for construction of the facility next year.

Ashfall Park is a division of the University of Nebraska State Museum, and the University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted Nov. 9 to approve the project. In recognition of the family's support, the facility will be named the Hubbard Family Rhino Barn.

Priscilla Grew, director of the NU State Museum, said the facility will allow for decades of excavation, expansion of the current display of fossil skeletons and the conservation of the state's unique fossil resource.

"This magnificent gift will enable our paleontologists to uncover new fossil discoveries and will provide protection so that the fragile exposed area of the fossil bed can be enlarged by careful scientific excavation over the coming decades," Grew said. "Visitors and school groups will be able to watch paleontologists at work on the fossils, sharing in the excitement and thrill of their discovery."

The original rhino barn on site got its name when built in 1991 because of the 50 barrel-bodied rhino fossils it protects, but there are also horses, tiny saber-tooth deer, camels, cranes and turtles.

"We very much share the vision of our generous donors; we want the public to be excited about science and the natural world," Grew said. "We want visitors of all ages to be able to come to Ashfall and experience the incomparable thrill of seeing fossils revealed for the first time since they were buried in ash some 12 million years ago."

Claire Hubbard, her husband, Ted Hubbard Sr., who died in 1995, and their daughter, Anne Hubbard, and son, Ted Hubbard Jr., and his wife, Colleen Hubbard, all of Omaha, are generous longtime donors to the University of Nebraska. In addition to this recent gift, the family's foundation established a paleontology education fund for the NU State Museum to create education kits to teach children around the state about the ancient elephants of Nebraska. They also funded two endowed chairs for cardiology faculty at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and provided support to UNO Television for production of a documentary about Madagascar.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a cooperative project of the NU State Museum and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Since studies began in the 1970s, more than 200 fossil skeletons from 12 species have been discovered at the site in northeast Nebraska. In 2006, the park was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. government and was the first to receive such distinction in more than 18 years. More information is available online at

The University of Nebraska Foundation is a private, nonprofit corporation that has raised private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for 71 years. Last year, almost $90 million was provided for students, faculty, academic programs, research, and for campus and building improvements. More information is available at

CONTACTS: Priscilla Grew, Director, University of Nebraska State Museum, (402) 472-3779;

Robb Crouch, Director of Public Relations, NU Foundation, (402) 458-1142 or 304-3058