by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator
The museum community recently lost one of its best spokesmen with the passing of Jack Horkheimer. For those of you that never had the pleasure of meeting Jack, he was the executive director of the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium. To me, however, he will always be The Star Hustler, the original title of his series of short presentations on astronomy, which aired on PBS stations beginning in the mid 1970’s.
Growing up in Central Florida, Jack was a big part of my Saturday evening television viewing; his program came on right before Doctor Who, and he would occasionally appear on the pledge drives for my local Public Television station. Jack Horkheimer always began his show with the phrase, “Greetings, greetings, fellow Star Gazers…,” and just like that we were off on an adventure into the night sky. Our wanderings never took us far from home; everything that Jack discussed could be seen right from my backyard without the aid of a telescope.
Jack was an advocate for naked-eye astronomy, and he made you want to run outside and check out whatever astronomical event he was describing just by the pure power of his enthusiasm. He was a nerd way before it was cool, and he delivered astronomy lessons in a folksy, upbeat manner that came from his genuine love for the subject. The fact that he often shared his stories while perched atop an animated planetary ring just added to his accessibility.
Whenever I present a program at the museum, I think of the folks like Jack Horkheimer that helped me to find the joy of learning, an appreciation for the wonders of our universe; and to always, “Keep looking up”.
Here’s the last video that Jack Horkheimer recorded for his Star Gazer program, scheduled to air this week on PBS stations.