HAYS, KS -- When "A T. rex Named Sue" opens at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History Saturday, Feb. 24, Sue Hendrickson will be there.
Hendrickson is the field paleontologist who found the fossil, and for whom the fossil was named. She was working as a professional fossil hunter in 1990 for the Black Hills Institute when she found the Tyrannosaurus rex in an outcropping in South Dakota.
She spoke to a Salon Magazine interviewer in 1999 about the discovery of the fossil Sue. At that time, only 25 T. rexes, including Sue, had ever been found.
"Every day we'd wake up [in the field] and jokingly say, 'Today I'm gonna get me a saber-toothed cat,' " she told the Salon interviewer. "But a T. rex? You don't even joke about that. It's too far-fetched."
She will autograph books on both Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24 and 25. Saturday's scheduled time is from 3 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.
Hendrickson, who was born, raised and dropped out of high school in Munster, IN, received her first diploma last May from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which awarded her an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree in recognition of her many accomplishments.
She is highly regarded as a self-taught field paleontologist and marine archaeologist and is familiar to scientists at the Smithsonian, National Geographic and Discovery. She has worked in Peru, Egypt, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico.
Until she found Sue, she was most famous for her expertise and discoveries of fossil amber -- petrified tree resin in which, millions of years ago, such things as ants, scorpions, beetles and other small creatures were trapped. Some of the best-known pieces of amber were found by Hendrickson, who became interested in it when she was in the Dominican Republic on a marine archeology project.
The expedition that found Sue was apparently an aberration for Hendrickson, who prefers water and has worked on such projects as exploring a Chinese trader ship that sunk in the 1500s, discovering the wreck of the San Diego off the coast of the Philippines, and the exploration of the wreckage of Napoleon's fleet off Egypt. That last project was for a program for the Discovery Channel.
When she is not traveling, she lives on the island of Guanaja, off the coast of Honduras, in a home she built in 1998. It was her first permanent home since leaving Munster.
"A T. rex Named Sue" features a life-sized, articulated cast of the 67-million-year-old fossil called Sue, the largest, best preserved and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. The exhibit has many other components, including a full-sized cast of Sue's skull mounted at eye level, interactive anatomical models and several interactive stations that allow visitors to put together a large-format 3D puzzle of Sue's skeleton, a Sue-eye-view of the Cretaceous world and a video of CT images of Sue's skull.
The traveling exhibit, one of only two touring the United States, was made possible because of an educational and financial partnership among Chicago's Field Museum, McDonald's Corp., Walt Disney World Resort and private individuals.
Additional local and regional support was provided by McDonald's of Hays, Russell and WaKeeney, McDonald's Mid-Kansas Advertising Cooperative, McDonald's Kansas City Region and Coca Cola.
Additional regional support was provided by Pepsi Bottling Company.
Below are the main events related to Sue during her two-month stay at the Sternberg Museum:
Feb. 24: Opening ceremonies are at 9 a.m. The exhibit opens to the public at 1 p.m. From 3-5 p.m., Hendrickson will sign autographs and books in the Seibel Lobby of the Sternberg Museum. Hendrickson will be at the museum most of the day. Ronald McDonald will be available at various times to visit with children and pose for photos.
Feb. 25: Hendrickson will again sign autographs and books, from noon to 2 p.m. in the Seibel Lobby. At 3 p.m., "Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Family Concert" begins in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall on the campus of Fort Hays State University. Ronald McDonald will be available at various times to visit with children and pose for photos.
March 10: Dr. Bruce Schumacher, who earned bachelor and master's degrees from FHSU and who was one of the people who prepared Sue for exhibit, will talk about the preparation process at 7 p.m. in Beach/Schmidt.
March 31: Dr. Chris Brochu, Field Museum paleontologist, will discuss the scientific significance of Sue in a presentation at FHSU's Memorial Union at 7 p.m. Because Sue is so complete and was so well preserved, the scientific knowledge of Tyrannosaurus rex was expanded significantly with discovery of this fossil.