Heidi Duncanson | Development and Communications Coordinator
Howard and Phyllis Crosby had their eye on the Seacoast Science Center even before its official opening 25 years ago. The view from their home in New Castle looks right across Little Harbor to Odiorne Point and the Isles of Shoals, so they had a keen interest in what would happen to the old stone Sugden House (later known as the Russell B. Toby Visitors Center before Seacoast Science Center was built) and the surrounding waterfront property.
“When I retired from the Navy as Chief of Staff for NATO’s submarine fleet, Phyllis and I knew we wanted to live back to where she grew up, so we picked this ocean-facing spot to build our house in 1981,” explained Captain Crosby. “We had traveled the world with my Navy career and now wanted to be ‘professional volunteers’ in our community. We enrolled for training in a new Marine Docent program that UNH was offering and graduated in a class of eight people. From there, we heard about someone looking for help leading children’s programs out on the rocks over at Odiorne Point and we’ve been involved ever since.”
Howard joined the Friends of Odiorne Point, an organization that played a key role in determining what to do with the land that had been Fort Dearborn during World War II. The Army built Fort Dearborn to protect Portsmouth Harbor. After the war, the State of New Hampshire purchased the property and was considering various plans for its use. Howard’s main goal was to see it remain a protected natural parkland that could be used for both recreation and education.
The Crosbys volunteered with children’s programming on the rocky shore for years. “We really enjoyed working with the kids and teaching them about the environment,” Phyllis remarked. The couple raised funds to help expand what was offered and in 1991, Howard was instrumental in the hiring of Wendy Lull to lead what would officially become Seacoast Science Center in 1992. Since that time, the Crosbys have been avid supporters of the Center: leading naturalist programs, signing up for, and thus ensuring the success of the Center’s early travel programs, and even hosting annual staff gatherings at their home.