November 10, 1941 - April 19, 2019
Dr. Dale Etheridge, 78, retired director of the College of Southern Nevada Planetarium, died April 19, 2019. A founding member of the Pacific Planetarium Society and one of its original directors, Dale helped set up the Western Alliance Conference and was a fellow of the International Planetarium Society.
Born November 10, 1941, in Long Beach California, he was raised in San Pedro, California, and graduated from Millikan High School in 1960. He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Southern California in 1964.
During college, Dale's interest in science became focused on astronomy, and he also discovered that his greatest satisfaction came from sharing his knowledge of the universe with others in a way they could understand. His greatest joy was in seeing people's eyes light up when they understood how complex things really worked. In college he also began working at Griffith Observatory and eventually served as curator of exhibits from 1971-72. There he found his real professional home in the planetarium. Dale earned his master’s in science education from California State University-Los Angeles in 1966 and his doctorate in science education from UCLA in 1976.
After graduation he briefly worked as director and astronomy professor at Mount San Antonio Community College. During that tenure he was recruited by what was then Clark County Community College in Las Vegas to build their planetarium.
Dale served as planetarium director and professor of astronomy at what is now the College of Southern Nevada from 1976 until he retired in 2014. During those years his focus in the planetarium was on public understanding of science. He was active in both regional and international astronomical societies, where he served as an officer and board member many times.
At CSN he received a number of outstanding faculty and service awards. In 2011 he had the distinction of receiving the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Faculty Award for the entire University and Community College System of Nevada. He also was instrumental in introducing the use of computer technology into the classroom as a teaching tool. He built the first online astronomy classes at CSN almost 20 years ago and even after retiring he continued to teach online as an emeritus faculty member right up through Fall 2018, when he was very ill.
He is survived by his wife, the former Carolyn Collins; a daughter, Cheryl and step-daughter Vicki, and two grandchildren.
Dale Etheridge liked to embrace the latest technology while respecting historical convention. To Dale, the planetarium was not just where he worked but a tool for showing the universe to everyone.
In science we sometimes pay so much attention to the numbers and results, we miss why it matters. Dale brought the beauty of science and astronomy to thousands of students and CSN Planetarium visitors. I have seen Dale spend hours explaining to a student/future astronomer the scientific method or the difference between demonstrations and experiments. My friend and boss of over 30 years is a true example of what it means to be an educator and planetarian.
2022 May 24, Robert Pippin reports that there was a naming ceremony for The Planetarium. The CSN Planetarium is now the Dale Etheridge Planetarium.