Back in the late 1960s, a committee of the Junior League of Des Moines began pushing the idea for an interactive science center. Muffy Harmon, sister of now DMU Board of Trustees member Arthur Wittmack, was on that committee, which succeeded in establishing the pioneering Des Moines Center of Science and Industry in fall 1970; their father, Charles Wittmack, was the center’s first treasurer, and Art’s son, two-time Mount Everest climber and attorney Charlie Wittmack, attended preschool there.
That was just the beginning of Art Wittmack’s long relationship with the Science Center of Iowa: He served on the center’s board from 1998 to 2007, including as board chair from 2005 to 2007. Last summer, he was named interim president and chief executive officer; in October, he was asked to take the position permanently.
“I love applied science and have a passion for education, and I’ve lived in Des Moines all my life,” says Wittmack, who earned his civil engineering degree at Iowa State University and went on to become president, chief executive officer and then chairman of the 100-year-old Des Moines construction company Neumann Brothers Inc. “Now it’s time to bring together my collaborations in Des Moines and across the state to promote science education.”
A longtime leader in central Iowa’s business, human service, civic and cultural arenas, Wittmack is intent upon connecting the science center with businesses, civic organizations and schools. He’s excited about involving DMU faculty as presenters at the center’s events and DMU students as docents at its exhibitions, such as last year’s highly popular “Body Worlds Vital.”
“We expected 45,000 to 50,000 visitors to that exhibition but had more than 80,000,” he says. “For them to see DMU students in their white coats, guiding and informing them, is pretty amazing.”