Teaching and/or Research — a Glimpse from the Past

August 4, 2010

A alumnus from the class of 1968 writes to share a story about his experience doing research while a student at Earlham.

“The photo of Earlham’s Observatory and your comments on “Teaching and/or Research” jogged an old memory ….

“One of my scholarship work projects while a student at Earlham from 1964-1968 was to assist the venerable Dr. Clifford Crump with his astronomy class.  I figured that job would be easier than the semester I spent on the cafeteria scrap line (our T-shirts read “Never a Hungry Worker!”), but as it turns out I did not do adequate research before requesting the job with Clifford.  He explained casually that one of my duties would be to position the dome and align the telescope each night before his evening class, which sounded like fun.  Had I researched this job a bit better before requesting it, I would have learned that 1) the dome had to be positioned by hand.  You climbed up the outside of the dome and pushed it around on its track until properly positioned for that night’s celestial body.  The dome was not turned by electric motors, like others I had seen; and  2) It is cold in Indiana in the winter.  Very, very cold.  And the wind blows.  And the track binds and gets jammed with ice and it can take all your strength to push that dome around!

“So, whether or not Earlham professors are encouraged to do research, Earlham students do need to research their projects very carefully….”

I’ll simply add that I bet he learned a great deal from the experience.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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