Visitors to the W.A. Gayle Planetarium in Montgomery, Ala., will get an even
more out- of-this-world experience thanks to a new full-dome digital projector
and renovation unveiled in the spring.
“We are ecstatic with the new Super Mediaglobe,” said planetarium director
Rick Evans. “The projection is beyond brilliant, fully immersive and absolutely
spectacular. The new astronomy software is beyond amazing. The stars in the
night sky look fantastic, but there’s so much more than stars. We now have a
digital, three-dimensional map of the entire universe.”
The planetarium closed in late January for the $500,000 upgrade project
that replaced the 45-year-old analog projector with a new full-dome
digital projector capable of creating more dynamic, immersive
shows. The new system is controlled by computer, with the
images of stars and planets emanating from a single digital
projector in the center of the dome, giving viewers the
visual experience of zooming in and out of galaxies
and planets, circling a planet or traveling through the
“We can lift off from Earth and fly through our solar
system, out of our galaxy and out to the very edge of the
universe,” Evans said. “Or we can orbit Earth, using satellite
data to observe and understand our planet in a whole new
way. Short of NASA’s database, I can’t imagine a more powerful
set of tools for exploring our universe and our place in it.”
The new digital system also offers a greater variety of programming
options beyond astronomy, including programs on natural history, biology
and other fields.
The project included a complete renovation of the auditorium including
TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. said the planetarium provides
educational opportunities for K-12 students and college students alike.
“This is really a transition… from high touch to high tech. To see the
capacity and know what it means will provide a tremendous educational
opportunity for students of all ages,” he said. “It is a testament to the
concept that once stretched to its creative limits, the mind never returns to its
The project was funded by the City of Montgomery and Troy University with
support from the Daniel Foundation, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama
and the State of Alabama Education Trust Fund.
The W.A. Gayle Planetarium is located in Oak Park and is operated by Troy
University for the City of Montgomery. It is one of the largest planetariums
between Atlanta and New Orleans, and more than 100,000 K-12 students have
attended educational shows there over the last five years.
The planetarium offers public shows Monday through Thursday at 3 p.m.
and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $5 and children under five years of age
are admitted free.
- Matt Clower
Planetarium Unveils Powerful
New Tools for Exploration
Troy University’s Student Success Center has been named in honor of Dr. John W.
Schmidt, a longtime senior administrator who retired at the end of July.
Troy University Trustees approved a resolution during their July 24 meeting renaming
the center, which is located inside Eldridge Hall on the Troy Campus and provides
programs and services that enhance students’ academic achievement, personal and social
growth, campus and civic engagement, career development and persistence to graduation.
“The naming recognition is humbling and an honor,” said Dr. Schmidt. “Yet, the real
satisfaction comes from knowing that this center adds value to students’ lives and their
own success here at Troy University. That of itself is its own reward and recognition – one
that I will always treasure in a spirit of service to Troy University.”
Dr. Schmidt joined the senior administration of Troy University in 1994 and has served
in several key leadership positions, including Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Services
and his current position, Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and External Relations.
Dr. Schmidt worked to create a program to help first-year students excel and develop
centers to help foster their academic, social and personal success. He also provided
leadership for the University’s first two capital campaigns and led the implementation of a
first-year common reader program that has led to a University-wide emphasis on creating
a culture of reading.
“Find a need and fill it is a Trojan mantra,” Dr. Schmidt said. “In other words, take
the initiative, which is an easily understood concept from my Marine Corps days as
well. Closely aligned is another USMC principle to serve those you lead. Both elements
converged in earning my doctorate – improve first-year student success and then serve
them well. Through a guiding coalition of faculty and staff, our Student Success Center
was born. Truly, the Center is
the work of many hands.”
Dr. Schmidt also led
the development of the
Newman Center, a value-
focused learning community
residence hall, and facilitated
the construction of Trojan
Village, a 500-person
residence hall complex.
A retired United States
Marine colonel, Dr. Schmidt
was also honored at a
luncheon on July 31, when it
was announced the creation
of the Dr. John Schmidt
Athletic Ministries Fund,
which will be used to enhance
outreach and campus-wide
service for student athletes.
Student Success Center named in
honor of retiring administrator
Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., left, and President Pro-tem Gerald Dial, right, congratulate Dr. John Schmidt for his service
during the July Board of Trustees meeting where trustees named the John W. Schmidt Student Success Center in honor of
Schmidt service to students at the University.