Friday Conversation
9:16 pm
Sun December 15, 2013

Perot Museum CEO: 'I've Had Three Children -- My Two Real Ones And The Building'

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened its doors in downtown Dallas a year ago. Since that day, 1.3 million people have wandered among the dinosaurs, wobbled on the earthquake simulator and put their hands through a tornado. And at the end of this month, the museum’s CEO, Nicole Small is moving on to a new job, as president of the Lyda Hill Foundation. She stopped by our studio for a Friday conversation, which aired Dec. 6.

The KERA radio interview.

  Interview Highlights: Nicole Small On...

...Regrets: "I wish we could've done it [build the Perot Museum] sooner. We live in a world where science and engineering and technology are going to solve most of the problems that we face ... whether it's weather, like we're facing right now, whether it's disease.... The United States is extremely far behind the rest of the world in math and science education, and it's scary. I guess I just wish we could have done this 15 years sooner."

...Lessons She Learned From Tech Start-Ups: "Failure for us is a really important part of our story at the museum, actually because when you talk about science, science about getting comfortable with failure. I think if you talk to a lot of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that have started these huge companies, they'll tell you stories about how many times they've failed."

...How Her Daughters Shaped The Museum: "When I started this job, I had no children, and through the process of it I like to say I've had three children -- my two real ones and the building.... Kids are really creative, and because they haven't experienced failure ... they're full of ideas.... You know, they set up science museums at home for fun."

...How She Juggled The Museum, Motherhood And Dealing With Breast Cancer:  "I always say you can plan things but they don't always go the way you planned them. Obviously it was shocking ... they always say it's the words you never want to hear.... Nobody should have to go through what we went through.... It touches too many people, and some kid who might walk through our door today might be the kid that's going to cure cancer. I feel fortunate to have been part of such an exciting project while I was going through such a personal challenge, because I think it really helped me get up every day."

...Why She's Leaving For The Lyda Hill Foundation: "I think it's a natural progression to go from  where I am at the museum to really thinking about some of these things on a more national and global scale.... It's an opportunity to go out and work with her and help her change the world."

[Editor's note: The Lyda Hill Foundation is a major donor to KERA.]