Oak Brook couple donates valuable animal collection to Jurica museum

Oak Brook couple donates valuable animal collection to Jurica museum
January 4, 2007

Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
(630) 829-6094

Few children have been able to look an African lion, a grizzly bear, a bobcat or a lynx in the eye. Fewer human beings have even seen a Marco Polo Sheep, whose horns grow as long as six feet and is found only in the Pamir Mountains in the border region of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. But through the generosity of Sam and Rosemary Pancotto of Oak Brook, students of all ages and visitors to the Jurica Nature Museum at Benedictine University will have the opportunity to come face-to-face with dozens of strange and beautiful animals from the continents of Africa, Asia and North America. The Pancottos reached an agreement with the University on July 10, 2006 to donate a collection of 57 animals to the museum. The collection, which also includes sheep, a bear, lions, leopards and deer, has been valued at more than $2.3 million by World Wildlife Appraisals of Reedsport, Oregon. The appraisal is based partly on the value the collection would have to a museum and the quality of the mountings. “The school groups that visit the museum are going to be thrilled to see lions,” said Mary Mickus, the education coordinator of a museum that is currently home to more than 10,000 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and insects. “They are very popular with school children. “This collection will also provide a vehicle for thinking about our attitudes toward wildlife,” she said. “There are a lot of questions that these animals will raise that go beyond just looking and appreciating.” Pancotto is a retired contractor who has built homes throughout the Chicago area. He and his wife wanted to donate the collection to an educational institution on the occasion of his 80th birthday this summer. The Pancottos were put in contact with the Jurica Nature Museum through a friend of the University who suggested that the museum might be amenable to providing a home for the 57 specimens which include a number of white tail deer, an antelope, a caracal and a Big Horn Sheep. “I would like to put one or two of the lions in our Africa exhibit and perhaps do a nice window display with some of the other specimens,” said Fr. Theodore Suchy, O.S.B., associate professor of biology at Benedictine University and curator of the Jurica Nature Museum. “We hope to engage a taxidermist to design a diorama.” The Jurica Nature Museum, located on the second floor of the Birck Hall of Science, features thousands of specimens and a number of special exhibits including an African savanna, a recently renovated Illinois Prairie display and a cast of the head of Stan, a tyrannosaurus rex. The museum represents the efforts of the late Dr. Hilary Jurica, O.S.B. and his late brother, Dr. Edmund Jurica, O.S.B. who collected specimens for their students to study during their combined century of teaching. The museum hosts more than 5,000 visitors annually including many students from neighboring elementary schools and junior highs. For more information about the Jurica Nature Museum, contact Mary Mickus, the museum’s education coordinator, at (630) 829-6546.


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.