From the Board of Visitors Executive Committee


Board of Visitors Members Host Outreach Visit in Abilene

BoV members Charles Ivey and Bill Wright, Jr., of Abilene hosted McDonald Observatory Director David L. Lambert and Dr. Karl Gebhardt, the Herman and Joan Suit Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin, for a whirlwind day of high-school and university talks and media interviews in Abilene on January 25, 2013.

The West Texas Science Center (of which Ivey is Board Chair and Wright is a Director) and the Abilene Chapter of the Texas Exes were co-sponsors of the visit, working closely with Gaile B. Thompson, the Executive Director of Secondary Education for the Abilene School District.

Charles Ivey; Bill Wright, Jr., and David Lambert in Abilene

A full day and evening were planned by Ivey and Wright, and Wright’s assistant Amanda Jones worked out the scores of details needed.

During the morning of January 25, Karl Gebhardt spoke about black holes, dark energy, and dark matter to groups of science students at Abilene’s Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science (ATEMS) magnet high school, where he was hosted by Thompson and teacher Jaime Tindall. Gebhardt then spoke at Cooper High School, where he was hosted by Principal Karen Muñoz and Administrator of Instruction Amelia Sibert, along with physics teachers Laurie McAnally, M.D., and Jim Reeves. While at Cooper High School, Gebhardt was interviewed by reporters from two television stations.

That morning, David Lambert made a presentation on the origin of the elements in water to a packed assembly hall at Abilene High School, where he was introduced by Instructional Specialist Gustavo Villanueva.

After lunch that day, Lambert gave a presentation to physics students at McMurry University, where he was hosted by Professor of Physics Wayne Keith. A photographer and reporter from the Abilene Reporter-News covered the event. At the same time, Gebhardt was presenting a talk at Hardin-Simmons University, where he was introduced by Professor Patrick Miller.

Kathleen Strong, representing the Texas Exes Chapter, made it possible for Lambert to move from place to place in keeping with the intricate schedule; Charles Ivey provided the transportation for Gebhardt, and McDonald Observatory Development Manager Joel Barna also helped with logistics. Texas Exes Chapter President Paul Serrell coordinated contacts with the newspaper and television stations.

After a dinner with Board of Visitors members and guests from the community, including Strong and Serrell at the Cypress Street Station restaurant’s historic downtown location, the events of the day were capped off by Karl Gebhardt’s well-attended public lecture at Abilene Christian College’s Walling Lecture Hall. Gebhardt was introduced by Dr. Rusty Towell, Chair of the ACU’s Department of Engineering and Physics.

Karl Gebhardt speaking at Abilene Christian University

Charles Ivey (who earned a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s and who was the first Chair of Abilene Christian University’s Physics Department) later estimated that Gebhardt and Lambert had interacted with 1,000 students and members of the public during the day.

Says David Lambert, “The remarkable efforts by Bill Wright and Charles Ivey and all the people they brought together made for a very stimulating, very successful day of outreach for science education. We thank these wonderful Board of Visitors members, the Texas Exes, the West Texas Science Center, and the people of the Abilene community.”

Coverage of the events can be found at:

Black Holes and Dark Matter

[Joel W. Barna]

February 2013
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