Edelman Founders Pledge $25 Million for New Jersey Dinosaur Dig

  • Rowan University Fossil Park expansion includes museum, lab
  • Paleontology ‘has got to be the most fun,’ Ric Edelman says

New Jersey’s dinosaur dig is about to expand.

Ric and Jean Edelman, the founders of Edelman Financial Services, pledged $25 million to expand the Rowan University Fossil Park in Mantua Township, the school said Monday. The 65-acre tract, purchased by the public university in January for $1.9 million, contains thousands of 65-million-year-old fossils from the Cretaceous period -- the heyday of dinosaurs, according to the school.

Rowan University Fossil Park

Source: Rowan University

The Edelmans said in a phone interview that their goal is to get more children interested in science at a young age. In 2002 the Edelmans donated $1 million to Rowan to support a planetarium with a program that’s free for elementary school students.

Most Fun

“If astronomy is the world’s oldest science, than paleontology has got to be the most fun,” Ric Edelman said. “It’s a great way to get kids excited about science.”

Ric Edelman estimated that the location was within reach of “tens of millions of school children.” Plans for the park include a museum and visitor center, a fossil preparation lab, a nature trail, a paleontology-themed playground, social spaces for events and more opportunities for students and families to participate in digs at the site.

Since 2012, the park has hosted a community dig day for people to search for fossils at the former ancient sea floor. The original plans for the park were modest, but the Edelmans saw a larger opportunity.

Expanded Plans

“When Rowan presented to us the details on the park, we actually expanded their plans by quite a lot because we believe this should be a world-class destination, not just something for the south Jersey region,” Ric Edelman said.

Located behind a suburban shopping center four miles from Rowan’s Glassboro campus, the quarry pit was mined for greensand for nearly a century by Inversand Co., which sold the sediment as an organic fertilizer and water treatment product, according to the school. Since the 1920s, researchers have excavated fossils there as Inversand continued its work. Fossils found at the site include marine snails, sea turtles, sharks, boney fish, crocodiles and mosasaurs -- extinct marine reptiles.

Ric and Jean Edelman

Photographer: Craig Terry via Rowan University Fossil Park

Ric Edelman, 58, is a 1980 alumnus; Jean Edelman, 57, is a 1981 alumna and university trustee. The gift is the second largest in the university’s history, behind a $100 million gift from Henry and Betty Rowan in 1992. The park will be named the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University.

Founded in 1987, Edelman Financial Services provides financial planning and investment management services to more than 30,000 individuals and families. The firm, based in Fairfax, Virginia, manages $16 billion in assets, with 170 planners in 42 offices. Rowan has an enrollment of 14,000, according to its website.

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