Terry Bryant of the Ocean Isle Museum Foundation Gives All

by Jul 5, 2018People, South Brunswick

Terry Bryant says six years ago she accepted the position of executive director of the Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Inc., which includes the Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach and Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach because she felt she still had more to give to the public. This motivation to serve is evident in how she has expanded the educational opportunities at these facilities and how she wants to spread the word about them.

“I try to be the best servant to the Foundation I can be,” she says from her office at the museum. “We have a very supportive board that allows me the latitude to do things I think should be helpful here.”

She’s quick to credit her staff, the board and the 100-plus volunteers for the advancements made over the past six years. Those improvements abound.

Terry Bryant Ocean Isle Museum Foundation


The 700-gallon aquarium at the museum, which took two years to build, highlights the Shipwrecks exhibit that the GPS Store in Ocean Isle Beach funded. In a glass-enclosed case, an explanation of the mastodon, complete with a three-dimensional figure, accompanies the mastodon tooth found on the beach in 2014. The exotic lionfish tank overlooks the touch tank, which has been refurbished. And the section of an Army P-47D Thunderbolt from WWII found on the beach is featured in a prominent display.

Over the past two years, the SciDome hardware, projection system and cove lighting system at the planetarium were updated. View Space has a 24-hour feed from NASA, and a hurricane simulator recreates the sensations experienced during that natural disaster.

A real find, thanks to Terry’s dedication, is the seven-part display of nanotechnology, which refers to tiny units so small it measures a billionth of a meter. Terry explains that she came across a facility in Florida updating its nanotechnology display and was giving away its current one gratis. Terry and her husband, Ronnie, rented a truck and drove to Florida to retrieve the valuable find worth a half million dollars.

“I’m always seeking free and low-cost programs and exhibits,” Terry says.

“I am continually amazed by her dedication and abilities,” says Tom Smith, vice chair of the Foundation. “We have grown considerably because of her, and Ronnie is rolling his sleeves up right beside her.”

When asked what her greatest personal asset is, Terry says, “The work ethic. I thank my dad for giving me that because that plays a role in everything you do.”

Terry grew up in Clinton, N.C. where she rose at 3 a.m. to help get the tobacco crop to market. She graduated with top honors from Hobbton High School in Newton Grove and excelled in basketball and softball, earning several awards including Athlete of the Year as a senior. She had planned to be a veterinarian and after graduation in 1977 worked as a veterinarian’s assistant. When she was a secretary at Sampson Community College in Clinton, she enrolled in classes and earned her associate degree in accounting. In 1998 she earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure studies from Mount Olive College, and in 2006 she received her master’s degree in educational media-instructional computer technology from Appalachian State University.

She later was student activities coordinator at SCC which included duties of athletic director, student government advisor and student support services secretary. In this capacity she earned the Excel Award conferred on an employee who has achieved outstanding accomplishments as voted on by peers. Twice she received the Top Campus Award as student government advisor. When Ronnie accepted a job at Brunswick Community College, where he is now chief information officer, Terry took a position at the aquarium in Fort Fisher where she was special events coordinator.

“The diversity of my background has helped me be a success for the past six years and choosing the right people who work for you,” she says.

When asked what her hobbies are, Terry says, “This place,” then laughs and adds that her eight grandchildren consume her free time.

Her calm demeanor defies her hectic schedule, but she says she gets riled at redundancy, repetitive work that wastes time.

“Terry is a phenomenal person,” says board member Stan Barwikowski. “Without her the museum would not function properly. She’s totally dedicated, extremely hard working and a wonderful person to work with.”

“Terry is always considering the professional and personal needs of her staff, and her door is always open to us if we need her support,” writes Katherine Hunt, planetarium manager. “She will always go the extra mile for our benefit even if it is at a personal sacrifice on her part.”

What gets Terry excited? “Coming up with new things. I’d like to develop a career center at the planetarium targeted toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). It’s so important for kids now.”

New this summer are day and night family programs, the film Kaluoka’Hina, The Enchanted Reef at the planetarium and the augmented reality sandbox at the museum. This is an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to manipulate the sand to create rain and other geographical features.

“We’re never so stagnate we can’t change,” Terry says.

She pauses for a few seconds. “I like to be creative in a meaningful manner.”


Want to visit?

Museum of Coastal Carolina
21 E. Second St., Ocean Isle Beach

Ingram Planetarium
7625 High Market St., Sunset Beach
(910) 575-0033


Both open May 25 – Sept. 3 Mon.-Sat. (See website for hours and activities.)

Sponsored by New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Sponsored by Chatham Glenn