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Stephen Nightingale '73
October 30, 2016
I first met Tony as a high school senior on November 15, 1968. Of the colleges I was applying to, Colgate was my “stretch” school—my record was good, but not outstanding. No extra-curricular activities to speak of. I had no time for them; I needed to get home to study everything I could get my hands on about astronomy, in addition to building telescopes and memorizing constellations up on my roof at night.
At any rate, I found myself in the Administration Building that day for my interview, and after a few minutes telling my interviewer about stellar spectral types, etc. he said “hold on” and dialed the phone. After hanging up he told me I needed to talk to their astronomer, Dr. Anthony F. Aveni.
I was actually going to meet a real astronomer!!!
After a long trudge up the hill (which also gave me the opportunity to have my first experience with lake effect snow) I was greeted by this warm, friendly man. We discussed stellar evolution, H-R diagrams, main sequence stars, etc. As I look back on it I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, instead, I was just so excited to finally have someone to talk to about this stuff! He wished me luck and back down to the Ad Building I went, to meet with the interviewer once more.
Interestingly, when I sat down he said he was willing to accept me on the spot if I would withdraw my applications to the other schools. I was a little confused, but that sounded good to me!
I have so many good memories of my years at Colgate studying with Tony. One stands out—my first class with Tony was an introductory class with over 100 students. I was struck by Tony’s enjoyment of sharing something he loves with the students, and the fun we all had being in the room with him for that hour. Tony combined his carefully crafted lectures with humor, and an underlying tone that he expected the best each of us had to offer.
The hook was set; I needed to teach.
Thanks to Tony’s inspiration I had a wonderful career in teaching, and more than once after a particularly good class I would think “Tony would have liked that one.”
By the way, many years later, I asked him about that interview. “Did you talk to the interviewer on my way back down to the Ad Building?”