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Gregory P. Andorfer, former executive director of the Maryland Science Center, who helped create TV’s 'Cosmos,’ dies

Gregory P. Andorfer, executive director of the Maryland Science Center, stands near a spacesuit in an exhibit on outer space.
Gregory P. Andorfer, executive director of the Maryland Science Center, stands near a spacesuit in an exhibit on outer space. (Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Gregory P. Andorfer, former executive director and CEO of the Maryland Science Center who, during his tenure, oversaw the expansion of the Inner Harbor attraction, died Oct. 29 at the Goodwill Retirement Community in Grantsville of complications from frontotemporal dementia. The former Cedarcroft resident who lived in Frostburg was 69.

Gregory Paul Andorfer, son of Robert Andorfer, a stockbroker, and his wife, Sophia Andorfer, an art therapist, was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio, where he graduated in 1969 from Mount Vernon High School.

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He was a 1973 graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was a double major in art history and English. In 1975, he earned a master’s degree in business from the University of California, Los Angeles.

From 1974 to 1982, he was a series producer, project director and national program executive at KCET-TV, a public television station. While at KCET, he helped create and was series producer and project director of the award-winning series “Cosmos” with Carl Sagan, which was an Emmy, Peabody and DuPont award winner.

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In 1986, he joined WQED in Pittsburgh, where he was vice president of national products and an executive producer. During his decade at the PBS affiliate, some of the programs he was associated with included “Everyday Science”; “Jobs: Not What They Used To Be — The Changing Face of Work in America,” which was hosted by Hodding Carter; and “Our Neighbor, Fred Rogers,” a 20th anniversary tribute to one of the station’s iconic figures.

The subjects he tackled on “Every Day Science” answered such questions as “Why do curveballs curve?” "Where do bugs go in the winter?" and “Why does popcorn pop?”

Mr. Andorfer came to Baltimore in 1996, when he was appointed executive director and CEO of the Maryland Science Center and from 2005 to 2006, was a consultant and executive producer.

With the Science Center’s board, Mr. Andorfer brought special traveling exhibits to its Inner Harbor facility and expanded program planning and execution, and conducted campaigns that raised tens of millions of dollars for the Science Center.

Gregory P. Andorfer is pictured in 1996, the year he came to the Maryland Science Center from WQED in Pittsburgh.
Gregory P. Andorfer is pictured in 1996, the year he came to the Maryland Science Center from WQED in Pittsburgh. (XX)

When plans for the expansion and renovation were announced in 2002, Mr. Andorfer explained his vision for the center in a Daily Record interview.

“We’re going to build a new wing out in front of the IMAX. ... [T]he new Science Center is going to have a huge new lobby, which will be about 7,000 square feet. ... Then we’re going to build a 10,000-square-foot Earth Science and Dinosaur Hall. We’re going to focus on the earth sciences because they’re coming back into the curriculum.”

Other hallmarks of the Andorfer years included a New Kids Room, Early Learning Resource Laboratory, The Health and Human Body Exhibit, Classrooms of the Future, as well as new lobbies and plazas that offered expansive views of the harbor.

The work represented a 40,000-square-foot expansion and reenergized the museum’s mission.

“A lot of museums try to show how smart they are and give you a lot of information,” Mr. Andorfer told The Sun in a 2004 interview. “We’re trying to let the kids figure it out for themselves, with their families.”

“The Science Center also won competitive grants for the production of exhibits, including the national traveling exhibit ‘Titanic Science: Depths of Discovery,’” wrote his wife of 17 years, the former Joan Serafin, who is a professor of political science at Frostburg State University, in a biographical profile of her husband.

"Greg also produced the IMAX film ‘Human Body’ in partnership with the Discovery Channel, the Science Museum of London and the British Broadcasting Corp., and was the executive producer ‘Dinosaurs Alive!’ for the Science Center and New York’s American Museum of Natural History,” she wrote.

Perhaps, one of the most popular attractions he was able to bring to the science center was the Titanic exhibit, which featured a large piece of a steel plate that had been removed from the ill-fated liner’s side.

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Three months after the Science Center completed the largest expansion in its history, Mr. Andorfer resigned in 2004.

“The thing that sticks out in my mind about Greg is his creativity,” said Jim O’Leary, of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, who stepped down last year as the Maryland Science Center’s senior scientist, and the last of its original founders. “He had a million ideas and he brought them all to the science center. He was outgoing, very friendly, and easy to talk to. He was just a fascinating guy."

After leaving Baltimore, Mr. Andorfer was director of the Exploratorium Museum at Frostburg State, 2006 to 2008.

From 2005 until his death, Mr. Andorfer was president and executive producer of Stardust Blue Inc., a media production and consulting company.

“Those who knew him will fondly remember his storytelling abilities, from being aboard ship in the North Atlantic working on the Titanic exhibitions, to dinosaur bone hunting in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia,” wrote his wife, Professor Andorfer. “Greg’s fascination and curiosity about the mysteries of the universe was contagious. His talent for making those mysteries topics of interest to large audience was rivaled only by his broad and engaging smile.”

Mr. Andorfer was recalled by those who knew him as a humble man who was blessed with a good sense of humor.

Because of the pandemic, plans for a celebration-of-life-gathering to be held during the summer of 2021 are incomplete.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Andorfer is survived by a daughter, Alexandra Andorfer of San Francisco; a stepdaughter, Aleksandra Knepper of Arlington, Virginia; and two brothers, Michael Andorfer of Mount Vernon, Ohio, and John Andorfer of Durham, North Carolina. His son, Gregory R. Andorfer, died in 1999.

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