Looking beyond the world through a telescope is what Jim Kloeppel has been fascinated with since the age of seven. Jim ’79 remembers in 1962 when his parents took him and his two older sisters to the Seattle World’s Fair (also known as the Century 21 Exposition) and then receiving a telescope the following Christmas. This fascination led to a vast telescope collection today.
Jim transferred to Morningside and majored in physics. He expresses that he enjoyed hanging out with friends in the physics department. After graduation, Jim worked in many areas around the country – including Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Illinois – working as a large telescope operator, research technician, and science writer and editor. While Jim is now retired, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Darlene, observing the sun and moon from his backyard observatory, and restoring old telescopes, as well as taking care of their many cats.
One memory that stands out to Jim is when he was operating the 84” telescope for an engineering run to test a new automatic star acquisition and tracking system at Kitt Peak. After everyone else had left, Jim was able to use the telescope himself, which was a rare opportunity. He says, “I had a wonderful time seeking out various star clusters, galaxies, and other deep-sky objects. When I landed on the great Orion Nebula, I must have spent half an hour studying the delicate wisps of gas, and the new stars forming in the heart of the nebula. What a magnificent sight and a wonderful night.” Since then Jim has collected a variety of telescopes, one of his favorites being a 4” Criterion reflector.
Reflecting on advice he’d give to Morningside students today, Jim said, “Climb out of your rabbit hole every once in a while, take a good look around, and decide if you are where you want to be. If you aren’t, then get moving.”