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Embracing ‘Life’: Major Donor Sarah Layton Supports Science Center

The contribution of Sarah Layton was instrumental in bringing the “Life” nature exhibit to fruition, with snails and sharks also playing significant roles in the project. Scheduled to open to the public on Thursday, the exhibit was made possible by Layton’s generous $3 million donation, marking the largest individual contribution in the museum’s history. Her name prominently features in the 13,000-square-foot exhibit, highlighted on entrance signs as “presented by Dr. Sarah Layton.”

Sarah Layton, an accomplished international corporate consultant and philanthropist, has traversed various fields throughout her career, including medical technology, clinical pathology, education, investing, and real estate. Her early experiences as a welder in her father’s Miami welding shop instilled in her a strong work ethic from a young age.

Following her marriage to Allen Layton in 1969, who was employed at Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin), Sarah relocated to Central Florida. Despite modest beginnings, the Laytons prioritized financial prudence, emphasizing the importance of saving and strategic money management. Sarah’s tenure as a medical technology instructor at Valencia College and later transition into sales and real estate underscored her adaptability and financial acumen.

Venturing into corporate consulting for over three decades, Sarah’s primary role involved assisting companies and executive teams in achieving their growth objectives, often necessitating travel to diverse locations such as Asia and India. Hailing from Utica, New York, she holds degrees from the University of Tennessee, Florida Southern College, and a doctorate in business from Nova Southeastern University. Tragically, her husband passed away in 2022.

Actively serving on the board of trustees at the science center for seven years, Sarah’s strategic acumen and philanthropic vision have left a lasting impact. Her pivotal involvement in establishing a donor-advised fund paved the way for substantial contributions, culminating in the multimillion-dollar donation earmarked for the “Life” exhibit.

The “Life” exhibit at the science center is a testament to Sarah’s enduring passion for nature, featuring three distinct ecosystems: ocean, swamp, and rainforest. Housing a diverse array of animals, including sloths, free-flying birds, monkeys, owls, and marine life, the exhibit offers an immersive experience for visitors. Notably, the installation stands as the most expensive in the institution’s history, with a significant portion funded by Orange County tourist-tax revenue.

Sarah Layton’s affinity for animals dates back to her childhood in Miami, where she fostered a deep connection with wildlife. Her adventurous spirit led her to engage in shark diving in Fiji, reflecting her ongoing fascination with the natural world. Avidly exploring science centers globally, Sarah acknowledges the unique charm and sophistication of the Orlando Science Center, praising its modernity and engaging exhibits.

Furthermore, Sarah appreciates the transformative impact the museum has on its visitors, particularly children who are captivated by the interactive displays and immersive learning experiences. Her dedication to supporting educational initiatives and fostering a love for science underscores her commitment to leaving a meaningful legacy within the community.