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 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


“I registered as soon as the class

opened,” said Tequila Dunn, 23, liberal

arts major at HCC. “I had been online at 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. Like 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


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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