Frank Perry: Laura Hecox Naturalist Award Winner

Frank Perry is an institution within our institution.

Frank’s professional relationship with the Museum dates back to his time as a student at Soquel High School, when a stint as volunteer led to a job during college. Several decades later, we are lucky to still have him today as a freelance exhibit creator and an irreplaceable resource of knowledge about our history and collections.

In June, the Museum presented Frank with the annual Laura Hecox Naturalist Award, which honors our founder’s love of nature. As a naturalist who is as comfortable leading a hike as he is examining fossils, Frank personifies the Museum’s mission of communicating the importance of the natural world.

Frank (center) was given the award by longtime Museum supporter Randy Widera (left) and Museum Executive Director Heather Moffat McCoy (right). In his introduction, Randy said: “Frank has a deep and relentless curiosity that has uncovered and brought to light so much of our natural, as well as cultural, history. To quote Frank, ‘You can’t separate human history and natural history.’ By combining both, Frank uses them as a lens to focus and share his insights and discoveries with all of us.”

After volunteering to catalog fossils at the Museum in his teens, Frank was hired to work the front desk on Sundays. He was employed at the then city-owned museum throughout his college career, first at Cabrillo College and later at UC Santa Cruz, where he earned a degree in Earth Sciences. One of Frank’s professors was Dr. Gary Griggs, the renowned marine sciences researcher who received the first-ever Laura Hecox Award in 2016.

For Frank, building a career around museum life was a natural fit. “As a kid, I loved museums and had my own nature museum at home,” he said.

Eventually, he became the Museum’s unofficial collections manager, learning a great deal from longtime Curator Charles Prentiss. Frank’s first wage was $1.95 per hour.

“I learned about the way things work in a museum, but I also just learned the kinds of things every young person does when they get a job and need to make it in the world,” Frank said. “I learned how to make change, talk to the public and get along with people.”

Frank went on to work for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as a curatorial assistant before coming back to Santa Cruz and working most of his career as a freelance exhibit creator for the Museum of Natural History, as well as other museums and park visitor centers in Monterey, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

As someone who knows the Museum’s collections better than nearly anyone, Frank also was hired in recent years to help the Museum deaccession items determined not to be central to its mission, an ongoing process that has resulted in transferring more than 100 items to the Museum of Art & History and other museums.

Frank became the Capitola Historical Museum’s curator in 2013 and also serves as a member of the Collections Committee of the Museum of Natural History. In September, the Museum will premier a new temporary exhibit by Frank called “Rocks and Waves.” 

Nancy Lenz: Volunteer

Nancy Lenz, champion of Pilkington Creek, is a veteran volunteer with the Museum.

After retiring to Santa Cruz from Berkeley in 1990, Nancy became connected with the Museum, which is near her home in Seabright. For several years, she did Museum publicity as a volunteer before spending countless hours in the gardens encircling the Museum.

Nancy has learned the names and Ohlone uses of plants such as beach strawberry, pink flowering currant and Indian soaproot that surround our historic building. Volunteers under her watch have recorded 1,200 hours since 2010 working on Pilkington Creek, which flanks the east side of Tyrrell Park, to remove non-native plants.

While the creek and gardens around the building are much improved, there is much more planting Nancy would like to do. “Live each day like it was your last, and garden like you’re going to live forever,” she said, quoting William Kent.

During the last several years, Nancy also has been a docent for the Ohlone Program, which teaches students about native peoples. “I like to see the kids light up and I like that moment when you realize you’re getting to the child sitting quietly in the back of the room,” she said. “That is really worthwhile.”

Anyone interested in supporting the efforts to restore Pilkington Creek, to work in the garden around the Museum or to co-lead our Ohlone Programs, please contact the Museum at volunteer@santacruzmuseum.org.

Felicia Van Stolk: Executive Director (formerly Education Director)

Spending countless hours in parks, on trails and in tide pools was the perfect training for Executive Director Felicia Van Stolk. The Santa Cruz County native joined the Museum in January 2016 after other endeavors in environmental education and youth literacy.  Felicia was appointed to the Executive Director position in September 2019.  The following was a highlighted post from 2017.


Felicia oversees all aspects of the Museum’s educational programming, including both the school and public programs. She leads the Museum’s education team in developing and leading school field trip programs at the Museum and at Neary Lagoon and Pogonip.

Felicia also plans the Museum’s public programming designed to connect members and guests with the natural world, including guided walks and workshops. She plans the monthly Naturalist Night series and a biannual special speaker series.

Her love of nature and activism was nurtured at Aptos High School where she took her first marine biology class and founded the Peace Club, which gave her a platform to plan concerts that led student artists to raise money for peace initiatives.

“I realized how important it was to be engaged in things I care about and to teach people about the things I care about,” Felicia said.

She studied marine biology at UCLA, where her minor was conservation biology. The daughter and granddaughter of teachers, Felicia also directed her keen interest in education and equity toward Project Literacy, where she worked throughout her college career.

In addition to performing fieldwork in Costa Rica and Bodega Bay, she later gained experience at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, first as an instructor and later as the organization’s camp manager. A desire to live closer to home brought her back to Santa Cruz County, where she can be found SCUBA diving or walking Manresa State Beach with her dog, Taz.

Liz Broughton: Visitors Services Manager

Liz Broughton, Visitor Services Manager, is the Museum’s longest-serving current full-time employee, having joined the team in October 2010 after graduating from the University of Washington’s master’s degree program in museology, museum studies.

She has served many roles at the Museum, starting as an admissions attendant and working her way up to a portfolio that includes managing exhibits, admissions, and the store. Liz is often found welcoming guests and school tours at the reception desk just inside the Museum’s entrance.

A native of the San Lorenzo Valley north of Santa Cruz who likes to hike in Henry Cowell State Park, Liz developed a love of museums early in life and was inspired in college to make a career of it.

“I was raised to be a museum nerd and always enjoyed them,” she said. “For birthdays, my specific request would often be to visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose or the Cal Academy of Sciences. I have always been interested in a wide variety of subjects.”

Liz decided to pursue a career in museum work after earning her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in anthropology and Celtic studies. She served internships at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and performed research on Museum of Vertebrate Zoology specimens before attending graduate school in Seattle. There, she interned with the Experience Music Project, Woodland Park Zoo and Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

“One of the things I learned in school is if you go to museums as a kid, you are more likely to visit museums and support them as adults,” Liz said. “That’s why I like to talk to folks when they come in the door — hopefully inspiring them to come back and visit and to learn more on their own.”