It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Talcott Mountain Science Center founder, Donald P. La Salle, Ph.D.
We will remember Don as an outstanding educator, a man of dreams and aspirations. A visionary who accomplished so much for science and education. One of his favorite quotes was this:
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Sir Isaac Newton
Coming from a large family in Queens, New York, Don learned to be a self-made man. He was a star basketball player in high school and was a high-scoring forward on the college team at Central Connecticut. After graduating and becoming certified in science he taught for Avon High School. He also took on the role of track coach where he brought home three State Championships.
In 1967, when a retired military base was made available through the US Government reassignment of land to public use, Superintendent of Avon Schools, Frank Driscoll, thought Don was up to the task. Don jumped at the opportunity to create a science center. He had the vision to found a teaching facility where children could learn by doing.
With initial grant funding and support from 10 surrounding towns, the Talcott Mountain Science Center came into being. Equipment was acquired to teach astronomy, geology, meteorology, radio-electronics, and environmental science. He hired young passionate instructors to “use the very equipment we teach about to teach with.” The Science Center had one of the first mainframe computers, observatories with large telescopes, and labs with microscopes, cameras, and field equipment. Don persisted with his dream of having a premier science teaching facility winning several multimillion-dollar grants with the National Science Foundation and US Department of Education while at the same time completing a doctorate in a revolutionary science, chrono-biology. He recognized that we learn and perform according to internal biological clocks and proved it with groundbreaking research that up until recently was revolutionary.
Don was ahead of his time and was the first to employ new technologies in learning whether it was LASER discs, virtual reality glasses, or 3-D printing. We had to have it!
He saw the value of distance learning and broadcasting to larger audiences through live interactive media and he attracted some of the greatest minds in the wide-ranging fields of science and exploration. Jane Goodall wrote that “it is wonderful what you do” in one of her visits to the Center. Nobel laureates, McArthur Prize winners, and more than a dozen astronauts visited and presented at the mountain, each with a fantastic story to tell. Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the Moon, became a fan and a friend to Don. His artwork now graces the halls of the Center.
From a retired Nike missile radar site to a state-of-the-art teaching facility featuring cutting-edge technologies and passionate teachers, Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy carries on the methods and the legacy of Donald La Salle.
To commemorate Don and his lifetime of commitment and contributions to science education, the Talcott Mountain Science Center has created the Dr. Donald and Nancy La Salle Scholarship Fund. For more information about this fund and how to contribute, please click here.
I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand -- Chinese proverb