Friday, March 20, 2015

Aquarium CEO honored with a plaza naming in San Diego

Nigella Hillgarth, the New England Aquarium’s President and CEO, was in San Diego last week to receive the honor of having a plaza named for her at the University of California San Diego’s Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Hillgarth was Executive Director at the Birch Aquarium from 2002 to 2014 before coming to Boston last summer.

Nigella addresses crowd at even in California.

Called the Nigella Hillgarth Education Plaza, the outdoor courtyard is part of a $6 million gift from Robert E. and Allison Price of Price Philanthropies, a family foundation connected to PriceSmart, Inc., the largest operator of membership warehouse clubs in Latin America. The gift will help expand the aquarium’s science education efforts for young people and schools in San Diego County.

In the Birch Aquarium newsletter, the Prices said their interest in the environment led to a connection with Hillgarth. “For me personally, the connection really grew out of the relationship with Nigella,” Robert Price said. “We remember Birch Aquarium from the old days when it was down below, and pretty primitive. I think what really changed our attitude and feelings about the aquarium was Nigella … her vision, and also her passion.”

Nigella at New England Aquarium's marine mammal center

Hillgarth, who was born in rural Ireland and educated at Oxford University, was attracted to the position in Boston because of the Aquarium’s important research and conservation efforts in places as remote as the Phoenix Islands in the Pacific Ocean and as close as Boston Harbor.

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