Frank Cianciolo Retires from McDonald Observatory

18 August 2021

FORT DAVIS, Texas — After more than three decades of bringing the wonders of the night sky to visitors and the public, Frank Cianciolo is retiring from McDonald Observatory at the end of this month. Cianciolo is the manager of the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.

“Frank Cianciolo’s love for astronomy and masterful knowledge of the night sky have been shared with generations of visitors to McDonald Observatory,” said observatory Director Taft Armandroff. “My colleagues and I thank him for his dedication to McDonald Observatory’s public programs at our Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.”

Cianciolo started working full-time at McDonald Observatory in 1994, though he had spent long stretches volunteering with the observatory’s outreach efforts in the years just before, while still in college. “I fell in love with the observatory, and never wanted to leave,” he said.

Once he came on full time at the observatory’s previous W.L. Moody Visitors Center, he took on a range of outreach duties including leading tours and manning telescopes at public star parties.

When the new, greatly expanded Frank N. Bash Visitors Center opened in 2002, Cianciolo was soon named manager. For nearly two decades, he has overseen the center and its staff that not only offers immensely popular star parties, solar viewings and observatory tours, but also a theater, café, and gift shop to an ever-growing number of visitors at the remote mountain site.

Cianciolo witnessed a lot of changes during his time at the observatory. “Building the new visitors center was a huge thing,” he remembered. “I got to participate in creating new exhibits, and learn about construction. It was very cool.” The new, bigger visitors center served an ever-growing audience. There was “tremendous growth in visitation,” Cianciolo said, leading to some “astonishing changes we went through” to serve that audience.

Additionally, Cianciolo watched the construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes from the ground up: the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. “Being here for the construction of the HET — that was amazing,” he said.

Working at the observatory, and indeed living on-site, for decades, has been a way of life for Cianciolo. “The observatory is such a family, such a community,” Cianciolo said. “The staff at the visitors center is so tight. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to work with all of these people.”

After retirement, Cianciolo plans to return to his hometown of Cincinnati, where his family still lives.

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Media Contact:
Rebecca Johnson, Communications Mgr.
McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin

McDonald Observatory video featuring Frank Cianciolo

In this 2019 video, Frank Cianciolo talks about his life and work at McDonald Observatory over three decades. TRT=4:16 (Texas Co-op Power)

Frank Cianciolo

Frank Cianciolo