Paul & Rita Etzel

Paul & Rita Etzel

donor plaque
Paul & Rita   Etzel

Paul Etzel graduated in 1971 with a B.S. in physics from Washburn. Paul joined the faculty of San Diego State University (SDSU) in 1986, after obtaining M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy and astrophysics from SDSU in 1975 and UCLA in 1986, respectively. Between his SDSU and UCLA degrees, he enjoyed a 5-year career as a data processing supervisor at SDSU. As a student at Washburn, he was mentored by long-time physics and astronomy chair and WU alumnus, Dr. Stanley Alexander. Etzel initiated his first independent scientific research with the photoelectric photometer on the 12-inch Warner & Swasey Telescope in Stoffer Science Hall. At the time, Washburn had the only research-capable observatory in the state. Simultaneously, Etzel took courses in electronic computing while employed as a student assistant with the computer center.

The combination of physics, astronomy, and computing experiences proved invaluable in supporting his future research career. He has been the recipient of over $1.3 million in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, Research Corporation, Edwards Foundation, and AT&T. His publication record includes over 90 research papers, conference proceedings, published abstracts, and research notes. He has supported 15 Master's thesis projects. From 2000 to 2005, Etzel was chair of the SDSU Department of Astronomy. Since 2000, he has served as director of SDSU's Mount Laguna Observatory (MLO), and has been responsible for two major telescope upgrades funded by the NSF, and also secured $730k in state funds for infrastructure upgrades. Etzel worked on a joint project with Kansas University (KU) to replace an existing telescope at MLO with a larger one to be operated by SDSU and KU astronomers over the internet. KU will provide access to all professional astronomers in Kansas, and their students, including those at Washburn, to promote research and student training.

Paul and his wife, Rita, began to give back to Washburn in 1999 with the project to renovate the 12-inch Warner & Swasey Telescope at Stoffer, and soon after to the Planetarium Fund. They were inspired by the far-reaching Stoffer Hall renovation project in 2006, and decided to contribute further. Partly because of his experiences as a department chair during a serious budget downturn, they created the Paul & Rita Etzel Physics & Astronomy Department Fund. The fund is designed to provide discretionary money to the department chair during difficult economic times, and also allows for small, innovative projects to be funded directly by the department.