About

Board of Trustees

Our Mission

Our History

Our Team

Partners

Job Opening - Development Associate

POSITION SUMMARY

The Development Associate will support the Observatory’s fundraising and development efforts including member communications, donation tracking, special events, data management, and more. This is a part-time position. 

This position requires an organized self-starter with basic development experience. The individual will report to the Operations Director and work with the Board’s Development Committee and other committees as appropriate, as well as the Observatory staff, volunteers, and Board of Trustees.

OVERVIEW OF RESPONSIBILITIES

Development

  • Send renewal reminders to lapsed donors and Observatory members.
  • Enter gifts into donor database and issue tax receipts and acknowledgement letters.
  • Provide lead detail planning for 2-3 special events, including annual Celestial Sips and Valentine’s Night fundraisers.
  • Provide support in planning Mitchel Society Donor Recognition event and other similar gatherings related to donor cultivation, stewardship, and fundraising. 
  • Assemble, write, and facilitate printing of Observatory’s Annual Report.
  • Assist with the administration of the Observatory’s Foundation.

Data Management/Administrative 

  • Utilize database and other data sources to document and support fundraising initiatives and activities. 
  • Manage email and mailing list distribution from the donor database. 
  • Create and maintain updated donor records and details.  
  • Send monthly e-newsletters to Observatory member base.
  • Represent the Observatory professionally in communications with donors.
  • Assist with basic data entry for Observatory financials. 
  • May support additional development efforts as requested; other duties as assigned.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree and at least 2 years of not for profit or development experience required.
  • Experience with planning and executing special events preferred.
  • Understanding of and experience with fundraising software, preferably e-Tapestry or other Blackbaud software.
  • Attention to detail and Impeccable organizational skills a must
  • Ability to respond to unanticipated issues and manage confidential information.
  • Superior written & verbal communication skills.
  • Professional and engaging personality, excellent work ethic.

To apply, submit cover letter and resume to Observatory Operations Director Anna Hehman at anna@cincinnatiobservatory.org by April 30 at midnight. No phone calls, please. 

 

The Birthplace of American Astronomy

Tucked away in a historic residential neighborhood of Cincinnati sit two buildings from a different era.  When you drive up the narrow, tree-lined street past grand Victorian homes you feel the history in your bones.  And at the end of the street stands the definition of “Observatory” – a picturesque jewel-box of a building capped by a silver dome.

The Cincinnati Observatory is known as ‘The Birthplace of American Astronomy.’  It houses one of the oldest working telescopes in the world and was the first public observatory in the western hemisphere.  Recently restored to its original beauty, the Observatory is a fully functioning 19th century observatory used daily by the public and amateur astronomers.  The main telescopes are an 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor from 1845 and a 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor from 1904.  The historic buildings are designated as a National Historic Landmark, and the grounds provide a serene, park-like setting while still being centrally located in the city of Cincinnati.  

COC by Keith Allen

Officers

Anna Coutts - Chair
The Foundation Office at Fifth Third

JoAnne Pedersen – Vice Chair
GE (Retired)

Wesley Ernst - Treasurer
BKD CPAs & Advisors

Joe Bayer - Secretary
Turner Construction

Dean Regas, Outreach Astronomer, Assistant Director

Dean Regas, Astronomer

The stars captured me in 1998 while working at Cincinnati's Wolff Planetarium in Burnet Woods. It was there that I discovered a passion for astronomy and have since become a local expert in observational astronomy, star identification and mythology. From 2010-2019, I was the cohost of PBS' Star Gazers.  I am the author of four astronomy books and I have written astronomy articles for Astronomy Magazine, Sky and Telescope, Huffington Post and the Cincinnati Enquirer.  I am often featured on local television and radio whenever something is up in the sky.  I have been the astronomer at the Observatory since 2000.

dean@cincinnatiobservatory.org

Click here to learn more about Dean

Illustration of astronomer looking through telescope
The Cincinnati Telescope

Founding and Early History

The old telescope in Cincinnati has always been the people’s telescope.  In 1842, Cincinnati professor Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel was a dynamic, eloquent speaker and the first American populizer of astronomy – the Carl Sagan of the 1800s.  Mitchel began raising money for the telescope and the observatory building.  He went door to door soliciting $25 per person to invest in this new endeavor (that was the equivalent to an average monthly salary in 1842).  Contributions came from all walks of life and every trade.  In one month and a half, Mitchel raised nearly $7,500 – enough to start shopping around for a proper telescope in England and Europe.  Finally in Munich, Bavaria (prior to a unified Germany) he discovered an 11-inch lens of incomparable quality that had already been ground but never installed.  The tube was then constructed of brass and mahogany and the completed telescope was shipped via New Orleans, up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to downtown Cincinnati.

The observatory originally sat on four acres of land at the top of Mt. Ida, which was donated to the Society by Nicholas Longworth.  On the 9th of November, 1843, a crowd of thousands witnessed former president John Quincy Adams preside over the dedication of the observatory, “The Lighthouse of the Sky,” and the laying of the cornerstone.  It was at the dedication that Adams gave his last public speech.  Mt Ida was renamed Mt. Adams following this event.

When the great refractor saw first light on April 14, 1845 it was the largest refractor in the Western Hemisphere and third largest in the world.  Mitchel, the first director, wrote and edited the first astronomical publication in the United States, The Sidereal Messenger.  The second director, Cleveland Abbe, published the nation’s first weather forecasts and he later assisted in the founding of the National Weather Service.

From the beginning the Cincinnati Observatory was unique.  Not only could stockholders look through the telescope, but the general public could as well.  Countless times Mitchel had his research interrupted by visitors who wanted to look through the refractor.

Current Observatory Trustee and neighbor, Charles Schiff has family ties to the early days of Cincinnati.  “I think of my son, who comes from eight generations of Cincinnatians,” says Schiff. “His great-great-great-great-great grandfather-with whom he shares the same name-very likely looked through that very lens and saw the rings of Saturn just like my son did. That's a very visceral connection to his ancestry. Emotional, too, when you consider that they probably shared a similar reaction. You know, ‘Wow!’”

The History of the Observatory (YouTube Video ~30 minutes)

Trustees:

Dave Bosse
University of Cincinnati Physics (Retired)

Cheryl Cowan
Fifth Third Bank

Alicia Culman
Great Parks Forever Foundation

Chuck Fairbanks
Control Systems Engineer, (Retired)

Tony Kuhns
Fifth Third Bank

Wallace Murray
Wallace B. Murray Business Consulting
Proctor & Gamble (Retired)

Linda Neenan
iSpace Learning Center (Retired)

Megan Okun
Taft Law

Marc Petullo
University of Cincinnati Office of Planning+Design+Construction

John B. Pinney – President
Graydon Head & Richey LLP

Dr. Mark Plano Clark
University of Cincinnati Physics (Retired)

Charlie Schiff
John J. & Thomas R. Schiff & Co

Lauren Worley
Proctor and Gamble

Anna Hehman, Director of Development

Anna Hehman, Executive Director

I was drawn to the Cincinnati Observatory because of what an educational and historical gem it is in Greater Cincinnati. Not only is the entire setting beautiful, but the learning that goes in within the walls of our buildings is truly incredible. Over 34,000 people of all ages visit the Cincinnati Observatory ever year and I love getting to tell our story, especially when I'm so passionate about our mission and work. 

My duties include pursuing funding avenues to financially secure this gem as well as promoting the Cincinnati Observatory to all those that have not yet discovered this treasure. I'm proud to be part of an outstanding team working on behalf of a truly special place! 

anna@cincinnatiobservatory.org

Cincinnati Observatory

Inspiring generations to look to the stars

The mission of the Cincinnati Observatory is to maintain the integrity and heritage of an historic 19th century observatory and to educate, engage, and inspire our community about astronomy and science.

Our vision is to be a primary resource in furthering astronomy and science education through programming:

  • For K-12 schools and the public on and off our campus
  • For universities and classes for teacher professional development
  • That promotes the rich history of the Observatory 
  • That strengthens our connection to allied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) organizations
Craig Niemi, Executive Director

Craig Niemi, Facilities and Collections Manager

I was introduced to astronomy by my grandfather when I was just knee-high to his telescope. I still remember that remarkable view of Jupiter. My wife Valerie and I joined the Observatory more than 15 years ago and became active with the Friends of Observatory as board members and history presenters. It's been a privilege to work with so many who are committed to the mission of the Observatory.

craig@cincinnatiobservatory.org

The Observatory circa 1880
The Observatory circa 1880

Move to Mt. Lookout

To get away from the pollution of downtown, the telescope moved in 1873 to a new settlement five miles east of the city.  The area was renamed Mt. Lookout in honor of the new observatory.  The four acres of land were donated by Board member John Kilgour.  Kilgour also underwrote much of the construction of the new Observatory with a $10,000 donation.  Architect Samuel Hannaford designed the Greek revival building before then designing Cincinnati’s Music Hall and City Hall.  

In 1904, the Observatory purchased a larger telescope from Cambridgeport Massachusetts, the 16 inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor, and built another building on the campus.  The older telescope from Munich moved into the new building and the newer telescope from Massachusetts went into operation in the old building.  

Following World War II, the Cincinnati Observatory remained active due to the efforts of one of its directors, Dr. Paul Herget.  Herget became one of the pioneers of the use of electronic computing machines for astronomical calculations.  The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center was housed at the Cincinnati Observatory under the directorship of Herget from 1947 until his retirement in 1978. (more biographical information (pdf) on Dr. Herget from the National Academy of Sciences and PaulHerget.org.

In 1979 the Observatory formally became part of the Physics Department of the University of Cincinnati.  The Observatory continued to be used for public education as well as for research by graduate students and others at the University of Cincinnati.

 

Lighthouse of the Sky

The Cincinnati Observatory is the center for education, history, and inspiration.  Learn more about our philosophy toward public engagement and our mission to get everyone to look through a telescope to have a "WOW" moment with the universe.

Cincinnati Observatory at dusk

CENTER FOR ASTRONOMY EDUCATION

For decades the observatory sat idle as a research institution, its telescopes and buildings slowly deteriorating.  In the 1980s both telescopes were painstakingly brought back into working order through the passion of the late astronomer, Paul Nohr.  However in the 1990s the owners of the buildings, the University of Cincinnati, contemplated plans to sell the land to developers who were interested in leveling the site and erecting condos.

A coalition of neighbors, historians, preservation advocates, and amateur and professional astronomers took action to save the observatory.  In 1999, the Cincinnati Observatory adopted a bold new mission.  No longer would the observatory try to compete as a research facility, but resurrected itself as a center for astronomy education.

The proximity to an urban area no longer became a detriment, but provided a huge new audience.  School groups and scouts tour day and night.  Classes for all ages run weekly.  Telescope training, star parties, weddings, art shows, fund raisers, business meetings, concerts, and movies are all held here.  After a $2.5 million restoration and a renewed support from the University of Cincinnati and the larger community, the observatory suddenly became the place to be.

The Observatory’s educational programs utilize the Observatory and equipment for its STEM support in local K-12 schools.  The staff has grown from 2 to 7 full-time employees and have a committed group of 100 volunteers.  Each year the staff and colunteers reach 35,000 people on campus and through outreach to the community.

Eight generations of Cincinnatians have been able to look through the old telescope and experience the wonders of the universe.  We hope to continue this tradition and welcome you to share in the history of the ‘Birthplace of American Astronomy.’

Trustees Emeriti:

Mark Armstrong
Trustee Emeritus

Dr. T. Michael Flick
Xavier University

Greg Hand
University of Cincinnati

John Ventre
Observatory Historian

Kelsey Stryffe, Docent & Admin. Assistant

Kelsey Stryffe, Docent & Administrative Assistant

My fascination with the stars began at a very young age when my mom received a telescope for Christmas one year. To this day I will never forget the image of the moon through that small lens. I have been a stargazer ever since. The Cincinnati Observatory allows me to bring both my love of history and the cosmos together in very unique ways. As a graduate from Miami University with a degree in Art History, and a career built on interpretation, I understand the importance that tangible history experiences bring to the public. The Cincinnati Observatory makes history and the cosmos come alive and I feel very fortunate to be a part of a team that can make this magic happen.

kelsey@cincinnatiobservatory.org

Samantha Pepper, Education Manager

Samantha Pepper, Education Manager

One of my earliest experiences with astronomy was seeing a picture of Earth from the Moon. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and instilled in me a deep curiosity about our planet and its solar system. Growing up I was obsessed with all things space and science fiction. As I got older my interests broadened to include all of the branches of science, which lead me to pursue a degree in science education. I have taught science-based lessons at many different institutions, including nature centers, museums and zoo. I was drawn to the Cincinnati Observatory because of the many things it has to offer, from science education to a rich and deep history. I am so excited to teach at the Cincinnati Observatory because it gives me the opportunity to inspire others to love space and science as much as I do. 

samantha@cincinnatiobservatory.org

Nicole Capella, Educator

Nicole Capella, Educator

My interest in astronomy began as a child at science camp. I saw the models of spaceships and learned how to make bottle rockets. The vastness of outer space is what fascinated me the most. Wonder at the intangible became my true fascination which led me to get my Master of Arts in Philosophy. I now teach philosophy at Thomas More University and Gateway Technical and Community College. At the Cincinnati Observatory, I try to bring the wonder of the vastness of space to the students we encounter in schools and libraries around Cincinnati.

Natalia Tooley, Educator

Natalia Tooley, Educator

My interest in the night sky began with my father taking my brothers and me camping as children. There was nothing better to me than traveling far enough away from civilization that you could look up and see thousands of stars in the sky. Not only has working for the Cincinnati Observatory given me the opportunity to educate the public on the night sky, but it has taught me so much about the history of my hometown. I am very happy that my environmental studies degree and my experience in nature and history education has brought me here.

Our Team