An Edinboro University faculty member and director of the campus planetarium is the recipient of the only global award that recognizes a lifetime of astronomy education.
Dr. David Hurd, professor in the Geosciences Department, has been recognized with the 2018 Richard H. Emmons Award for Excellence in College Astronomy Teaching by the Astronomy Society of the Pacific (ASP). The award honors Hurd for his service to college-level students as well as his outreach to K-12 students and the community.
“I can speak on behalf of the Geosciences Department, and I really believe we have some of the best scientist-educators in the country,” said Hurd, who joined Edinboro in 1992. “And to be recognized with this prestigious award only highlights the role I have the opportunity to fill in a great department.”
According to a press release from the ASP, Hurd delivers a unique education experience through techniques and materials that encourage students to conduct their own research and develop plausible explanations for astronomical concepts.
“For the past 50 years, Edinboro University’s Planetarium has distinguished itself in the region, nation and world as it brings personalized astronomy education to many diverse groups,” said Dr. Baher Ghosheh, a professor in Edinboro’s Geosciences Department since 1989. “Dr. Hurd is one of our many talented faculty who successfully make science interesting and accessible to our students who are not science majors.”
The father of twin boys with significant disabilities, Hurd’s particular specialty is developing educational materials on astronomy for the blind, including tactile books for NASA on such topics as lunar craters, Mars exploration and ocean worlds in the outer solar system.
Considered a pioneer in the intersection of astronomy and individuals with special needs, Hurd has dedicated more than 15 years to producing and implementing tactile astronomy materials for the blind and visually impaired.
Hurd met a personal challenge nearly 15 years ago, when a student who is blind took one of his courses. At first, Hurd was apprehensive about the new challenge. But after working with former Office for Students with Disabilities employee John Matelock and creating tactile materials for students, Hurd realized he made the right call to work with this student.
"Many of the students I have taught over the years have brought additional challenges with them,” Hurd said. “Whether it be emotional, physical or mental, they all have unique perspectives to add to the classroom.”
In 2017, the 30-year educator led the production of “Getting a Feel for Eclipses” the official NASA braille guide to the Great American Eclipse. Along with colleagues and collaborators, Cass Runyon from the College of Charleston and Joseph Minafra from NASA, Hurd helped NASA develop “Tactile Guide to the Solar System” and has worked on science material for the blind with the National Park Service.
Established in 2006, the Richard H. Emmons Award was established by Dr. Jeanne Bishop – the namesake’s daughter – and her husband, Allan, to honor Jeanne Bishop’s astronomer father and his lifelong dedication to education. The annual award recognizes and celebrates outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors.
Past recipients of the award include Edward Prather (University of Arizona), Charles Tolbert (University of Virginia), Terry A. Matilsky (Rutgers University) and Alex Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley).
Hurd, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Iowa State University, a Master of Science in Science Education from University of Nebraska and a Ph.D. from Cleveland State University, was named the Edinboro Faculty Member of the Year in 2016. He is also a past recipient of Edinboro’s Educator of the Year Award.
For more information about Edinboro’s planetarium and for a full schedule for fall shows, visit www.edinboro.edu/planetarium. To view Hurd’s profile with the ASP and a full list of national winners, visit www.astrosociety.org.