Astronomer, Educator Hemenway Inducted into Texas Hall of Fame for Science, Mathematics, and Technology

31 January 2003

AUSTIN, Texas — Mary Kay Hemenway, astronomy education expert with The University of Texas at Austin, was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame for Science, Mathematics and Technology on January 20. A Senior Lecturer and Research Associate at the University, Hemenway has devoted much of her energies to educating K-12 teachers (and through them, their students) about astronomy for many years.

"When I heard I was to be inducted into the Science Hall of Fame, I felt very honored since I suspected I was nominated by some of the teachers I’ve worked with over the years," she said.

The award was presented at the Texas Summit for Science, Mathematics, and Technology in San Antonio, hosted by the San Antonio Education Foundation and the Texas Education Agency.

Most recently, Hemenway has worked with the UT-Austin McDonald Observatory Public Information Office helping to design and implement both teacher and student programs for the Observatory’s new Visitor Center in Fort Davis, Texas.

Hemenway has spent almost her entire professional career at the University of Texas at Austin. She has served as Director of Educational Services Office the UT-Austin Department of Astronomy almost continuously since 1980.

"Back then, we started thinking more broadly about what the role of the University is in society," said Frank Bash, Director of McDonald Observatory. "We thought it was worthy to use the University to help K-12 teachers teach astronomy. This idea was way ahead of its time.

"Since its founding in the 1930s, McDonald Observatory has always had strong programs in outreach to the general public. But it’s been in the last 20 years or so that we’ve begun working to help teachers and schools. With the new McDonald Observatory Visitors Center, we’ve dramatically expanded our efforts in this area, and Mary Kay Hemenway has been heavily involved in this effort," Bash said.

Hemenway received her Bachelor of Science in Physics degree from Notre Dame College of Ohio in 1965. She went on to receive both a Master of Arts (1967) and a Ph.D. in Astronomy (1971) from The University of Virginia.

She is the recipient of many grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, as well as other agencies, for projects in science education. In addition to co-authoring a book and publishing papers in professional journals, she has extensive experience as a science education consultant with school districts and publishers. She has also has produced more than 25 abstracts and 50 book reviews. She frequently presents workshops to teachers at meetings such as Texas’ Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) and annual conferences of the National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA).

Hemenway served as Education Officer of the American Astronomical Society, the national society for professional astronomers, from 1991 to 1997. She oversaw and/or operated many of education programs for the Society. As well, she has been Secretary to the Board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) since 1999. The ASP is an international organization of professional astronomers, educators, and astronomy enthusiasts founded in 1889 "to promote the understanding and appreciation of astronomy."

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