Co-founder of DuPage Children's Museum remembered

One of the co-founders of the DuPage Children's Museum, Louise Beem, is being remembered this week as the "intellectual force" behind the institution that grew from a wood-paneled station wagon to a permanent facility near downtown Naperville.

Beem, 93, most recently of Evanston, died in her sleep on Good Friday.

As professor emeritus at the College of DuPage, she was honored when the Glen Ellyn school's Early Childhood Center was named the Louise M. Beem Early Childhood Center.

But she was perhaps best known for working with Dorothy Carpenter to create the children's museum.

The women were both early childhood educators from Hinsdale when they developed a mobile museum in 1987 to provide hands-on experiences for kids in math, science and the arts. They focused on open-ended, interactive learning with the ultimate goal of opening a permanent museum.

The first exhibit Beem created was a collection of wooden troughs and blocks that children used to build ramps through which balls could be rolled.

The Ramps and Rollers exhibit became a cornerstone of the museum's first temporary location in the Elmhurst Park District building in 1989. Three years later, the museum moved to the Wheaton Park District Community Center - where it stayed for nine years - and hired its first full-time and part-time staff members.

"Louise was the intellectual force behind the DuPage Children's Museum," David Carpenter, chairman of the museum's board, wrote in a statement. "My mother and Louise complemented each other perfectly. My mother was a nursery school teacher who connected instantly with each child she met. She also was a great organizer, and her goal was to create an institution that would be a place for young children and their families to enjoy.

"Louise understood that the museum needed to do more if it was to have maximum impact. Louise insisted that all of its exhibits reflect the science of how children learn and that the museum must be attractive to adults as well as children.

"Without Louise, the DuPage Children's Museum would not be the transformative institution that it is today."

Now in its 30th year, the museum is in its permanent home at 301 N. Washington St. in Naperville. It's planning to celebrate its anniversary in June.

"It was our greatest hope that (Louise) would be here to celebrate with us and cut the ribbon," said Sarah Orleans, museum president and CEO. "We will all miss her enthusiasm and brilliant insight."

"Louise was a remarkable and inspiring mentor ... Just being in a discussion with her about an exhibit or program for the museum was like a master's or Ph.D.-level course in early childhood development and learning theory," board member Cynthia Mark Hummel said.

Louise was married to Dr. Marc O. Beem, who died in 2014. They have four adult children and many grandchildren.

The Beem family will have a private burial service this weekend. A public memorial will be held at 2:30 p.m. May 15 at Presbyterian Homes, 3131 Simpson St., Evanston. A service will be held in Elliott Chapel, with a reception to follow.

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