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$13 million gift to natural history museum from Booth family
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$13 million gift to natural history museum from Booth family

Officials with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles announced a $13 million gift for its new North Campus.

The donation from The Otis Booth Foundation is the largest private gift dedicated to the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park in its nearly century-long history, officials said.

The money will go towards the creation of a glass entrance pavilion for the museum. The three-story entrance will be named the Otis Booth Pavilion and will connect to Exposition Boulevard via a pedestrian bridge.

“We are extremely grateful to The Otis Booth Foundation for this gift, which will create a beacon across our new North Campus for the transformed Natural History Museum by connecting the inside and outside as part of a seamless visitor experience,” said Paul G. Haaga, president of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Board of Trustees, in a statement.

The glass pavilion will showcase the Museum’s 63-foot-long fin whale, one of the institution’s signature specimens. The pavilion is scheduled for completion by November 2013, in time for the celebration of the Natural History Museum’s 100-year anniversary.

The North Campus is a 3.5-acre project that will create a new “front yard” for the facility. The project will include interactive outdoor exhibits and create 11 “zones,” with monikers such as Urban Edge, Transition Garden and Car Park. It is set to open this year. The North Campus will cost $30 million; $10 million comes from the county, and the rest will be raised from private donors.

It’s part of a of a six-year, institution-wide transformation funded by the museum’s $135 million NHM Next Campaign that has included the renovation of the museum’s 1913 building; the opening of the new Age of Mammals exhibit and exhibitions inside the Haaga Family Rotunda. The Dinosaur Hall will arrive in July and a new exhibition exploring the natural and cultural history of Los Angeles and Southern California will debut in 2012.

Franklin Otis Booth, Jr., made the smart bet to invest $1 million with Warren Buffett in 1963. By the time he died in 2008, his Berkshire Hathaway shares were worth just over $2 billion. Booth was the great-grandson of Los Angeles Times owner Harrison Gray Otis. He worked at the paper for 20 years before partnering on a real estate deal with Los Angeles businessman Charles Munger, who later introduced him to Buffett. Booth left some of his fortune to charity and the rest to his widow and six children. The family has now grown to include more than 30 members. His daughter Loren Booth inherited his San Joaquin Valley ranch, which boasts 8,000 acres of citrus groves and 4,000 acres of cattle ranch land and raises more than a dozen show horses a year.

As a 5th generation Californian, Loren Booth’s roots are deep in the soil of California. She was raised in the city of Pasadena and attended California State University (two years at Pomona and two years in San Luis Obispo).

She credits much of her success to the California Agricultural Leadership Program. “It was the best thing I ever did! The program gave me the self-confidence to step in and try something different.” At the time Booth Ranches groves existed however everything from farming to packing to marketing was outsourced. Loren first took farming in-house in the year 2000. In 2003 the first packing house was purchased. A few years after that the sales and marketing was brought in-house.

Today Booth Ranches is vertically integrated and farms from Fresno to Maricopa California. “It is a joy to deliver delicious oranges from my family to yours, I am very proud of our product” she says. When Loren is not at the office she breeds, raises and shows Reining horses. “It is a difficult sport, but I love everything about it. From seeing all the different babies grow up, to seeing them perform at the shows, it is breathtaking” says Loren.

Top of her list of passions is her children and grandchildren. “I love my family and my grandchildren have such a special place in my heart. Their laughter, antics, hugs and kisses fill my life. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

Photo: Loren Booth

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