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$1 Million Gift Benefits New Planetarium

Posted: October 10, 2012

A $1 million gift given as part of the landmark initiative Transforming Lives: A Campaign for Buffalo State will help the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium metamorphose from a great facility to a spectacular one.

When the new planetarium opens in 2016 in the final phase of the expanded Science and Mathematics Complex, it will offer visitors a chance to see the stars from the vantage point of Earth, as well as travel to other planets and galaxies through a state-of-the-art digital projection system.

"It will provide a great immersion experience," said Kevin Williams, planetarium director and associate professor of earth sciences and science education. "We will be able to offer a larger variety of programs in an engaging environment."

The gift has designated $750,000 for a second projector and $250,000 to create an endowment for future expenses.

"The second projector, an analog one, will be complementary to the digital projector, which doesn’t show stars as pinpoints of light," Williams said. "It gives us the best of both worlds, which translates into the best possible experience for audiences."

Additionally, the 35-foot-wide spherically shaped facility will allow Williams and other Buffalo State faculty to extend teaching beyond astronomy to disciplines as diverse as biology, art, and music.

"We will be able to show how blood cells travel through the body and even pass through the heart," Williams said. "The planetarium also could be used to take a virtual tour of historic sites for history classes or to visualize materials for almost any course."

This generous gift is part of $13 million in donations raised during the silent phase of the $20 million campaign that began earlier this year. Transforming Lives, which will take place over the next three years, is seeking philanthropic support from alumni, business leaders, and friends of Buffalo State to increase the amount of aid available to students and to elevate the student experience.

After a fire destroyed the original Buffalo State planetarium in 1978, public donations—the largest of which came from Whitworth Ferguson Sr. and his family—allowed it to be rebuilt. On November 23, 1982, the rebuilt planetarium was officially renamed for Whitworth Ferguson. Since then, it has served as a cornerstone of the Earth Sciences and Science Education Department and as an asset to the public.

Every year, the planetarium hosts several thousand K-12 students and offers 15 to 20 public programs that range from a viewing of the autumn sky to a holiday laser light show. When the new facility opens, Williams hopes to increase the number and variety of programs to attract a greater number of individuals, families, and school children.


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