After 56 years of being a window to the stars for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania community, IUP will say goodbye to its Weyandt Hall planetarium and Spitz A3P projector with a final show on November 18 and November 20.

“What This Planetarium Can Do” will be presented at 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 18 and at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the Weyandt Hall planetarium, located on the first floor of Weyandt Hall. The programs are free and open to the community.

Ken Coles, planetarium director and professor of geography, geology, environment, and planning, will present the program, which will focus on the features of the projector and planetarium and “bid it a fond farewell.”

Starting in the spring, students and visitors will be exploring the stars—and much more—in the Cejka Planetarium in IUP’s new science building, John J. and Char Kopchick Hall. The building and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are named in honor of IUP graduates John and Char Labay Kopchick. Long-time IUP supporters, the Kopchicks made a $23 million donation to IUP in April 2018 for science and mathematics initiatives at IUP.

IUP formally cut the ribbon for the $90-million building on November 2. Departments currently in Weyandt Hall have moved, or will shortly, to Kopchick Hall to be ready for classes for the spring semester. Weyandt Hall will be razed in the spring.

“The Spitz A3P projector was a very good design, a workhorse for schools and universities, and that was its intent by its designer,” Coles said. “It’s served us well, so it’s sort of like saying goodbye to an old friend,” he said.

“But with the Cejka Planetarium’s digital projector, there is absolutely no limit to the programs and educational opportunities that we can provide,” he said. “It can be used for so many other teaching applications outside of astronomy, including disciplines outside the sciences. You can fly over the Earth or other planets; you can offer a magnified view of items; you can literally create an environment that surrounds you. When you are looking at something on a dome, it’s very different than seeing something flat,” he said.

In addition to the advantages offered by a digital projector connected to the internet in the Cejka Planetarium, the new projector offers a higher resolution and speed in a larger setting; the dome in the Cejka Planetarium is 35 feet, compared to the Weyandt Planetarium dome of 30 feet. The Cejka Planetarium also offers more seating than the Weyandt facility.

The Cejka Planetarium is named in honor of the generosity of Tim and Debra Phillips Cejka, 1973 graduates of IUP. Cejka’s $2 million donation completed the match required from the university by the Department of General Services to move forward with the Kopchick Hall project. The Cejka’s $2-million gift joined their $5 million donation to IUP as part of the university’s Imagine Unlimited comprehensive campaign.

The IUP Council of Trustees approved the naming of the new planetarium in honor of the Cejkas in May 2018. Tim Cejka, who is now a member of the IUP Council of Trustees, is the retired president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company and vice president of ExxonMobil Corp.

“Because we believe so strongly in the value of science education, and in IUP, we were committed to making a gift to Kopchick Hall and we wanted to help to create something very special, a showpiece within the building, that would meet the needs of current and future students and faculty, and attract potential students,” Tim Cejka said.

The Cejkas have been members of the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences and were part of the museum’s efforts to update the planetarium with a new state-of-the-art system.

“I invited Kopchick College Dean (Emerita) Deanne Snavely to the museum early on in the Kopchick building planning process to show her the museum’s planetarium. She was impressed with the planetarium and its capabilities. So, after some discussions with the Natural Science and Mathematics Advancement Council, we agreed to add a new digital planetarium to the new building plans,” he said.

“This new planetarium will open up so many horizons—it could even be used for students entering the teaching field, providing the immersive experience of a classroom to help pre-teachers to be better prepared for the student teaching experience,” he said.

“If something is available on a digital platform, you can access it and use it in the planetarium,” Tim Cejka said. “It’s a great teaching tool for almost every discipline beyond astronomy and earth science, which it will do very, very well,” he said.

Tim Cejka is clear that the Cejka Planetarium is part of the larger advantages offered by Kopchick Hall.

“It’s a tremendous building, reflecting an incredible amount of thought and planning by faculty, students, alumni—including the Kopchicks—and so many experts in the field of science and science education, including many of our own alumni.

“For example, the placement of the windows looking into the labs is very intentional—we want everyone to be able to see science happening in real time,” he said. “The planetarium will be one more opportunity in the building to see science in action.”

“Kopchick Hall will move this university—and our students—forward in new ways that we can only imagine, providing the tools that our talented students need and deserve to become the leaders that will change the world,” he said. “This modern planetarium fits into that goal perfectly,” Tim Cejka said.

The Weyandt Hall Planetarium opened several months after Weyandt Hall was dedicated in October 1966. The Weyandt Hall Planetarium had its grand unveiling in February 1967.

Robert Woodward, who went on to be the first chair of the Department of Geoscience (now part of the Department of Geography, Geology, Environment, and Planning) was the first planetarium director.

Professor Emerita Connie Evans Sutton, who completed her bachelor’s degree from IUP in 1967 and her master’s degree in 1968, assisted Woodward in the planetarium while a student. In 1968, she joined the faculty in the geoscience department and took over direction of the planetarium, serving in that role for 35 years until her retirement in 2003.

Coles took over the planetarium in 2004 when he was hired as a faculty member in the Geosciences Department.

“While the stars won’t look quite the same as in the Weyandt Hall planetarium because of the difference between the projectors, this new planetarium will literally open new worlds for our students,” Coles said.

Seating for the November planetarium shows is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis; doors will open 15 minutes before each show. Groups that wish to attend are asked to call in advance to make arrangements at 724-357-5626 or 724-357-2609.