Keystone College Observatory founder Professor Tom Cupillari retires after 50 years at college

June 13th, 2015 10:04 am

Keystone College Professor Thomas G. Cupillari will officially retire on June 15, after 50 years of service at the college.

LA PLUME — Keystone College Professor Thomas G. Cupillari, affectionately known as “Coop” to those who know him, will officially retire on June 15, after serving the college for 50 years.

Cupillari, retired as a full-time professor in 2007, but continued as director of Keystone’s Thomas G. Cupillari ’60 Astronomical Observatory in Fleetville, which he founded in 1973. Associate Director Jo-Ann Kamichitis will take over as director of the observatory, located just a few miles from Keystone’s campus in La Plume. Professor Cupillari will be available in an advisory capacity but will no longer direct the observatory’s day-to-day operations.

After graduating from what was then Keystone Junior College in 1960, the Factoryville resident pursued his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Scranton. He began his love of astronomy while pursuing his master’s degree in physical science and working at the observatory at Drake University. He returned to Keystone as a faculty member in 1965. Since that time, thousands of students have benefited from his knowledge, expertise, and wisdom.

In 1971, Professor Cupillari saw an ad in “Sky and Telescope” Magazine describing an observatory for sale. The 16-foot domed observatory and accompanying telescope with a 9-1/2 inch Alvin Clarke Refractor was owned by 1960s television star Dave Garroway, the first host of NBC’s “Today Show.”

Keystone purchased the observatory and telescope, and the Keystone College Observatory opened in the spring of 1973. The facility grew and expanded over the years, largely through Professor Cupillari’s efforts, donations from a variety of individuals and community foundations, and through financial assistance from his mother, the late Rita Cupillari.

In addition to the Keystone community, thousands of people from local schools, youth organizations, and civic groups value the observatory, the only facility of its kind in Northeast Pennsylvania, as a local treasure. In 2000, the facility was renamed the Thomas G. Cupillari ’60 Astronomical Observatory.

The observatory continues its regular summer hours, free of charge, each Wednesday and Friday evenings at 8:30 p.m. through Friday, July 31. The astronomical programs feature an illustrated lecture and weather-permitted observation through telescopes. The main objects planned for observation include the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn; the Moon; and various star clusters, double stars, nebulae, and galaxies.

For more information on the Observatory, visit