FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Jim Hodgin has worked at Science Central longer than any other employee currently on staff. He started his career in April of 1998. For those doing the math, that’s three years after the attraction opened to the public. Now, 23.5 years after he landed the job, he’s the longest serving employee.
“I do a lot of things,” Hodgin said. “I started out and I still do the major scheduling for inbound groups – all the school groups, that sort of thing – I’m the rental liaison for when we rent the building and our facility.”
Hodgin applied to Science Central before its grand opening in 1995 but didn’t get the job. Three years later he tried again, and was hired on the spot as a receptionist.
“I really enjoy talking to people,” he said. “Within 4 weeks, they put me on a different phone line doing what I’m doing today.”
His title of Registrations Manager means he spends a majority of the day in his office, on the phone, talking with teachers and schools, booking events, parties, visits, and more.
Over time, Hodgin’s job began to morph. With the introduction of computers and new technology in the workplace, and especially in the non-profit world, he decided to teach himself databases and programming.
“There was a database that we had availability to, nobody knew it, I said ‘I’ll learn it’ which I did,” said Hodgin, who also taught himself HTML so he could do website work for Science Central. “It’s fun learning that kind of stuff, and I’m always looking to learn new stuff.”
That learning continued during the height of the pandemic when Hodgin and Science Central’s staff worked from home. Hodgin picked up, what he calls, a fascination with YouTube.
“There is a lot that I find fascinating about these people who are researching and learning on their own and then putting that out there in the world,” he said. “I find that absolutely fascinating, and hence I’m drawn to that because I like to think of myself that way as well.”
As much as he enjoyed learning from YouTube, Hodgin was excited to return to the building and get back to what he really enjoys – talking with people.
“Who hasn’t done Google Meets and Zooms, however, I prefer being in because that’s when you have the opportunity to interact with your fellows. They have the opportunity to go, ‘I wonder what Jim knows,’ they pop down and ask questions,” he said. “Email is a wonderful tool, but it’s just one tool. We are an in-person venue.”
All of the learning, the experience, and the drive to execute every task to perfection, Hodgin does to better serve Science Central and its thousands of yearly visitors. At the end of the day, that’s who it’s about.
“When you look on the floor, you hear all the noise and you see [kids] moving around, and all of a sudden ‘bing bing bing.’ the lightbulbs start going off, and it’s just fabulous. I’ve been on the floor a lot, I’m here for rentals, I’ve seen people interact with our exhibits and it’s amazing to see people go ‘oh wow, I didn’t know that,’ that’s one of the reasons it just thrills me to be here.”
In Hodgin’s corner office upstairs, evidence of hard work and dedication are on display. His motto “simplify the process, practice efficiency, zero errors” hangs on the wall. Personal mementos, like a 20th anniversary card from his coworkers is taped to his door.
“That was one of the greatest days of my life here, because I had no clue,” he said. “Usually somebody whispers something , somebody slips, and so on and so forth, and I knew nothing about that when they did that.”
A picture of Hodgin and former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann is also hung up in his office. In 2014, she awarded him the Hoosier Hospitality of the Year award that recognizes a high level of service in tourism-related jobs. Hodgin says it was a very meaningful moment.
“Every year an email goes out to various places and Martin [Fisher] got it and he talked it over with leadership and they all said ‘it’s got to be Jim,’ so Martin filled out the application and sent it back,” he said.
Other personal mementos include a large Blade Runner poster. Hodgin says it’s the best science-fiction movie ever made. As the proud father of two daughters, he also has family pictures hanging on his cabinets.
Hodgin moved to Fort Wayne in the 1960s and is proud of the city for saving the building that houses his workplace.
“I was so happy and so proud that Fort Wayne took something that other cities have just bulldozed down, this wonder edifice that is Science Central, and turned it into a jewel of its crown. We have wonderful attractions and places to go and things to do and people to meet, and one of the brightest is Science Central.”
Hodgin is also proud to be such a large piece of Science Central’s story, as it’s dazzled kids and adults alike for 26 years.
“I’m just a cog. I stayed in my place because I knew that I was doing the best job that I possibly can serving the foundation of the organization in general. Leaders may come and go, but your cogs, your people in the machine, they’re the one’s who keep moving it forward.”
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