The Fred G. Dale Planetarium of Wayne State College first opened its doors to the public in December 1969 as one of the first facilities of the newly constructed Carhart Science building to become operational. The planetarium was named in honor of Fred G. Dale, a former professor of geography at the college. The planetarium initially featured a partially automated Spitz A-4 star projector with dozens of auxiliary, slide, zoom, panorama, and special effects projectors, which permitted dramatic representations of a wide variety of celestial phenomena. Through the years, the planetarium was updated with new equipment and show materials made possible, in part, through grants from the Student Senate and the LDL (Lambda Delta Lambda) Science Honorary.
Then in December 2009, a water pipe broke due to cold temperatures and flooded the planetarium. The planetarium closed for renovations and reopened its doors in October 2010. The planetarium now houses the most technologically advanced and educationally versatile planetarium in the state of Nebraska with a Spitz SciDome high-definition projection system (www.spitzinc.com) that puts 3 million pixels on the 30 foot dome, can show 500 million stars, can look at space from any location in the solar system, can move backward and forward through time 100,000 years, and much more! Also part of the renovation was the installation of a surround sound system, new carpeting, and comfortable seating for up to 50 viewers. The lobby also was renovated and now includes some wonderful astronomical murals by local artist and professional mural painter Rich Bohacek, photos and displays, a kid’s corner, and a popcorn machine.
The planetarium has always and continues to support the science curriculum on campus. In addition to serving Wayne State students on a daily basis, the facility is also made available to area residents through special programs offered to schools and organizations and regularly scheduled shows offered to the general public on Sunday afternoons.
The Fred G. Dale Planetarium has been an especially useful resource in serving both the needs of Wayne State students and the interests of area residents. In the 40 years of its operation, more than 140,000 people have visited the planetarium, gaining new insight into the wonders and workings of the universe.
Mr. Carl Rump, associate professor of earth science, was the director of the planetarium from 1969 – 2008. Dr. Todd Young (at right), professor of physics and astronomy, is the current director.
After graduating from Hartington High School, Fred Dale came to Wayne State Normal in 1914. At Hartington he had played on the school’s first football team; at Wayne he participated in both football and basketball. The April 1915 issue of The Goldenrod, dedicated to the junior class, described Fred Dale in these words: “Freddie – The big man in W.S.N. athletics. A regular giant in stature. Big hearted and good natured. The lode-star of every W.S.N. girl’s affections….”
After receiving his two-year diploma in 1916, Dale continued his athletic pursuits at the University of Nebraska, lettering in both football and track for three years. He interrupted his studies to serve in World War I in 1918. He completed both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the university.
The 1921 Cornhusker yearbook had this comment on Dale’s football record: “Fred found his stride in the Kansas game this year and proved to be a might ground gainer. Along with his 200 pounds of beef, Dale has speed that gives him a chance to make big gains when he once breaks away.” When Nebraska beat Rutgers at the Polo Grounds, the New York Herald declared “five men could not stop Dale.”
Dale was a sprinter and shot-putter on teams which gave Nebraska its first Missouri Valley Conference championship in 1921. He set conference records for heaving the shot in 1920 and 1921.
He married Edythe Wrigley on September 7, 1920 in Lincoln.
Dale returned to Wayne in 1921 to coach all sports. After seven years of coaching he switched to teaching geography and conservation. His special interests were meteorology and climatology. He was particularly proud that many of his students – and his son, Robert – chose meteorology as a career. He maintained his interest in sports in part by refereeing high school and college athletics in the area.
Dale suffered a stroke in 1960. He missed the spring 1960 semester, but came back to teach the summer session and the following fall semester. When he retired in 1961, he said he planned to spend his retirement hunting, fishing, and golfing. Combing a geographer’s perspective with that of a sportsman, he noted: “The earth is three-fourths water and one-fourth land, so you spend three-forths of your time fishing.”
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at commencement exercises on April 19, 1962. Fred Dale died on March 21, 1967.
From Wayne State College 1910-2010: Far From Normal – 100 years of educational excellence by Kent Blaser