Triad Magazine

A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.

Putting the Universe Into Perspective

By Ron Algood

 

When Dr. Dale Thompson arrived at HCC, he had a mission–beat out 300 other applicants, all with Ph.D.s, for the sole full-time teaching position available. Thompson won the position– mission accomplished. What came afterward, however, was a bonus for HCC students. Thompson would go on to accomplish the unimaginable. He transformed an astronomy course, considered one of the more difficult required sciences, into one of the most popular classes on campus. As a result, Thompson’s class began filling up faster than the speed of light. “When I first arrived, the joke was that I got the job because HCC thought Ph.D. stood for the post-hole digger,” he said. Apparently, this assumption wasn’t far off. Prior to applying, Thompson, a graduate of Florida State University, had recently been laid off by a semiconductor company in Largo, Fla. No one in his field was hiring, so he went to work in construction. Then he heard about the opening at HCC; that’s when he applied for the position and finally hit pay dirt. To this day, Thompson’s students still flock to his classes at warp speed. Thompson said he’s not sure if the reason is the course, which doesn’t require a lab, or if it’s his weird sense of humor that attracts so many people. Most of his students, however, are not so skeptical. According to them, the answer is crystal clear – Thompson rocks. “I registered as soon as the class opened,” said Tequila Dunn, 23, liberal arts major at HCC. “I had been online at ratemyprofessors.com and read about Professor Thompson. He seemed pretty fair; besides, he’s very funny.” Thompson is the first to admit, however, that his teaching style wasn’t always so eccentric. “When I first started, I was too serious, wearing a tie and everything. But I changed as a person because the students changed. I evolved,” said Thompson. “I believe I can sneak crazy stuff in, and if I get people’s attention, they can learn from it. As the density of a white dwarf–it’s heavy, darn heavy, but they may not understand how heavy. Then I say, well, it’s the weight of 44 elephants per teacup. Stuff such as that they understand.” Thompson recently retired from teaching full-time at HCC. He did, however, choose to stay on part-time and teach one class – the one that changed his universe and the universe of many of his students, astronomy.

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