A Star(lab) for the teacher

This is one of those rare, it-only-happens-to-other-people kind of stories, a story that whether you are a family member, a friend, or a person of the human race would appreciate. But, in this case, it didn’t happen to a stranger, it happened to my Dad!  So, I must capture the beauty of it so I can spread the word that values of appreciation, kindness, and gratitude are still evident in our world today.  Passionate in every way, here is how a lifelong interest of one inspired another not only through the years of direct instruction but also motivated her esteemed career in the field of science.  And how ultimately, over 50 years later, that student came back to this Buffalo area to thank him.

That teacher is my dad, Richard Zygmunt. Growing up, his enthusiasm for astronomy filled our backyard with his homemade telescopes, filled our Saturdays with lessons taught at the Buffalo Museum of Science, and filled our summers with the lessons he taught about the celestial skies from the little observatory he built on the hill of a local summer camp.

Through the years, he would study the sky either on his own or in groups with fellow astronomers. Telescopes were built by them and used for study. Here, a star-gazing group has convened.

As any astronomy-enthusiast would, he and others attended the very recent re-opening of Buffalo Museum of Science’s Kellogg Observatory.  After checking out the new telescopic equipment,  well, they posed.

It was in early August of 2018 when my Dad received this letter.

“Thank you for attending the grand opening celebration for the Kellogg Observatory.  With the re-opening of the Kellogg Observatory, the Buffalo Museum of Science cotinues its transformation, our reverence for our past informing ambitions for the future.
As an educator, you shaped Museum experiences and crafted memories your students cherish to this day.  You instilled a love of learning and an appreciation for the boundless possibilities space holds.  I am honored to inform you that your legacy of inspiration will continue to touch generations of Museum goers for years to come.
With this letter, the Buffalo Museum of Science formally acknowledges that your former student, Dr. Cora Musial has gifted a digital planetarium in your honor.  You taught Cora when she was a Museum Kid, and took her on her first visits to the Kellogg Observatory.  Cora explained that your astronomy classes “Stars and Constellations” and “The Sun and Its Family” inspired her and instilled in her a lifelong love of all things celestial.  To this day, she still has the notebooks from your classes.  
In the Richard Zygmunt Planetarium, the Buffalo Museum of Science will continue your work of capturing the imagination and fostering a new generation of star-gazers.  We are honored.” Sincerely, Marisa Wigglesworth, President & CEO
December 12, 2018

Family and friends gathered and celebrated. Here we are listening to the plan for the evening which included a demo of the digital planetarium’s possibilities for education and party sleep-overs.

We gathered outside the starlab, first, for a family photo and then, inside the structure to more fully understand the power of this high-tech learning tool.

Below, is a close-up of the plaque printed right on the digital starlab’s fabric.  No question about this dedication, a truly heartfelt thank you from student to teacher.

Cora, as you can see, was a museum kid turned Dr. Cora Musial, Infectious Disease Specialist.  Check out to what extent she shared his passion. Below, she is showing her former teacher the notebook that she still has with the notes she took from his classes.

Check out the date.  If you’re wondering, yes, she took her notes in handwriting during class, then re-typed them at home!  I heard it being discussed that these notebooks will be placed into the archives of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

May the minds of young ones be filled with the knowledge, interest, and wonderment of the skies above with help from the Richard Zygmunt Planetarium for years to come. And, not so bad that my Dad was given this recognition and appreciated for his fine teachings in this field.

19 responses to “A Star(lab) for the teacher”

  1. […] days in my childhood where my Dad built this observatory as well as the telescope inside it, to the instruction he provided at the Buffalo Museum of Science through the years, my dad was a consummate researcher and teacher in the field of astronomy. So, […]


  2. Holly, I too was a Museum Kid as well as my brothers and sisters (5 of us). I fondly remember the classes of Stars and Constilations and the Solar Systerm taught by your father at the museum. Today, at 64 years old I love star-gazing . I now see the stars from the other side of the world (Germany) and it brings back fond memories of the studies at the Museum.
    What a wonderful gift from Cora Musial to your father! A tribute to his legacy.
    Please extend my heartful thanks to your father for the knowledge and love of star-gazing. ‘I hope to pass it on to my two Grandchildren.


    • I am not sure I don’t recognize your name! Thank you so much for stopping by. The entire story is pretty amazing and even your comment, seeing the stars from Germany and remembering classes taught from my father here in WNY is almost equally thrilling. I will be sure to pass along your message when I see him on his birthday in a few days.


  3. This has made my day – thank you so much for sharing, I am so happy to know that students are still inspired enough to thank those that came before, and who worked behind the scenes to share their passion.


  4. Thank for so eloquently sharing this story. How one person can so greatly impact someone’s life. What a great accomplishment and tribute to your Dad. Just or more importantly, you were there to share this special day with him and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda, wonderful taking your grandsons. They are also using the lab for parties and sleepovers. I remember those birthday parties I had for my daughter. I would have set one up like this in a heartbeat. Have fun and nice hearing from you!

      Liked by 1 person

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