Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Comet hunter advocates for education at Plattsburgh

Dr David Levy combined his love for the night sky and education in his talk: More Things in Heaven and Earth: How a Great University Can Help Us Reach for the Stars.

“What Dr. Levy did is basically make his own career. He said I like watching the sky and thats how im going to spend my life,” Wendy Gordon, professor of history said. “We can all do that, find a thing that we love and find a way to do it.”

Levy was introduced to SUNY Plattsburgh when he was 15 years old. His parents sent him to Adirondack Science Camp at the Twin Valleys Outdoor Education Center, located 40 miles from campus, in the center of the Adirondack wilderness. It is owned and operated by College Auxiliary Services and use is limited to Plattsburgh State recognized groups departments and classes.

“He’s trying to bring is the sense of wonder he has about the sky and education and give students the sense that there is a broader purpose to education than their going to get the right job and they’re going to be able to sell themselves.” Gordon said.

Levy has spoken at Plattsburgh State many times, but Monday’s talk was the largest, with an audience of about 100 people.

A common theme throughout the talk was the idea that failure is a vital part of succeeding. He shared several anecdotes from his own life including a story about when he first applied for the Adirondack Science Camp and was rejected. His mother reached out to them asking why he wasn’t accepted, they responded that it was because he showed very little interest in science. Levy rewrote his letter restating his interest. He was accepted and attended the camp for three summers. He now hosts an astronomy retreat at the Twin Valleys Outdoor Education Center every year.

Levy articulated his love for Twin Valleys many times, even once stating that if he and his wife had committed some type of crime where the punishment was they could only ever travel to two places in the world they would choose their home in Arizona and the Twin Valleys Outdoor Education Center.

He wanted to attend Plattsburgh State back in the 60s but was never able to because his father wanted him to go to McGill University in Montreal. Now he has an honorary degree from Plattsburgh State and is auditing an American History class taught by Dr Gordon. .

“I might have discovered a lot of comets,” Levy said. “But some of the most important discoveries I have made have been in libraries doing research.”

In 1992 a comet was named Shoemaker – Levy 9, after him and the man he discovered it with.

Freshman Computer Science major Xuanye Huang said his favorite part of the talk was hearing about Levy’s father, who instilled Levy’s love of  books, especially Shakespeare, in him. Huang was particularly moved by a story Levy told of his father developing Alzheimers and forgetting who he was but remembering the name of a book he loved.

“At the end of a long day or a short day I will go outside and look up at the sky and just take it in,” Levy said. “That inspires me the most, no telescope, maybe see a shooting star or two maybe a satellite. Just enjoy it, just love it.”

 

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