Meet some of the people whose passions for their work shine through their accomplishments.
Scott Williams, 31, director of exhibits and science at Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, has a passion for dinosaur fossils and sharing them with children. He knows how essential it is to connect kids with science at an early age, because that’s how he began.
“I used to bring fossils to Burpee Museum and have the museum’s first director, Milt Mahlburg, look at them,” Williams says. “I’d tell my parents to pull the car over so I could dig fossils out of limestone roadcuts. Finally, one day, when I was about 13, my mom just dropped me off at the museum and made me volunteer.”
In 1999, while working as a sheriff’s officer, Williams funded and helped to lead the crew that discovered famous Jane, the world’s most complete juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, in southeastern Montana. The dinosaur rekindled his first love, and Williams soon joined the museum staff.
He still leads Burpee dinosaur digs in Montana and Utah, and he immerses students of all ages in the world of paleontology. There’s no telling what an interest in dinosaur bones can lead to, says Williams. “From CT scans to 3-D imaging, there’s all this Star Trekkie stuff going on today, and it’s because kids got excited about dinosaurs.”
Erich Schulze, 49, part owner of Northern Prosthetics & Orthopedic Inc., Rockford, has a passion for getting patients back on their feet – literally. Amputees, stroke patients and people with disabilities all benefit from the custom devices he designs and builds in his lab.
At age 16, Schulze began assisting his father, Herb, who founded the company. Today, he’s a certified prosthetist, orthotist and pedorthist, and his field has advanced light-years from the belts and straps he once built.
“It’s very humbling,” Schulze says. “Sometimes, you want to do things that maybe are impossible.”
With today’s technical advances, however, there’s little he can’t accomplish. Durable, aircraft-quality materials and colorful cosmetic touches make orthopedic appliances more comfortable and attractive than ever.
He recalls one particular patient who was fitted for an improved, more comfortable prosthesis, after relying on older types for 45 years.
He was so thrilled to be out of pain, and his mobility was better,” says Schulze. “To be able to change someone’s life is so rewarding. He never knew that a prosthesis didn’t have to hurt.” ❚