Dudley M. Varner, a longtime museum and university specialist in anthropology and archeology, has been named the first executive director of the Natural History Museum Foundation of Orange County.
Varner, 49, will also be the foundation's chief curator and will oversee fund-raising efforts, as well as museum operations and educational and research programs.
The nonprofit foundation, based at a Newport-Mesa Unified School District complex in Newport Beach, was formed 13 years ago to preserve and display the county's fossil and archeological resources.
"The (foundation) program is still relatively modest, but I'm very impressed with what has been done by the volunteer corps," said Varner, who will be supervising a three-member paid staff and work with a $160,000 annual operational budget.
"I'm very excited about this post because this program is obviously growing, and the need for it has been demonstrated many times over in this county. The aim, of course is to make this a full-fledged museum."
For the last year, Varner was an assistant director with the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C., acting as a grants administrator for museums and historical organizations.
He has also served three years as founding director of the California State Agricultural Museum in Fresno. He has also been director of the Archeology Museum at Cal State Fresno and the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin. For several years he was an associate professor of anthropology at the Fresno campus.
Audrey Moe, president of the foundation's board of directors, said Varner "brings to this position an impressive museum and scientific record."
"We're delighted he has accepted the challenge of guiding this museum through its next developmental phase. Everyone connected with the museum sees enormous potential for an important educational, cultural and research facility. The selection of our first director marks a turning point in furthering that goal."
Varner, who earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Arizona, has conducted many field investigations in Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, admission free. In addition to exhibits, the museum provides lectures, docent training and field trips.