Heitkamp Planetarium

Philanthropy Efforts Near Goal for Loras College’s Heitkamp Planetarium

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Following the reception of three local grants from the Dubuque Racing Association and the McDonough and Wahlert foundations, nearly $80,000 has been raised for Loras College’s Heitkamp Planetarium as a result of efforts from students in the Honors Program.

What began as a group project for Celia da Silva (’19), Natalie Droeske (’19), Austin Kuchenbecker (’19), Audrey Miller (’19) and Jacob Till (’19), under the guidance of Dr. Kristen Thompson, Associate Professor of Engineering, has seen significant success. The group set out in October 2016 to replace the projector inside the Heitkamp Planetarium, which is original to the structure built in 1963.

The group has utilized a number of fundraising strategies, including online crowdsourcing, direct mailer, social media and hosted events in the planetarium.

In May, the Dubuque Racing Association awarded Loras College a grant worth $16,918 toward the project. These funds, in conjunction with a $20,000 award from the McDonough Foundation, also in May, and a $3,000 grant in September from the Wahlert Foundation has been combined with sponsorships, and matching and private gifts to purchase the new projector. Currently, there remains approximately $8,000 in funds needed to fully update the planetarium to compliment the installation of the new projector.

On average, Heitkamp Planetarium hosts classes and events for 2,000 people annually, including numerous area school field trips and youth organizations, a number which should see growth with the addition of the new projector given its standing as the only functioning planetarium within 100 miles of Dubuque.

The new state of the art projector has been purchased, with installation scheduled for the first week of January. Following installation, the Honors group plans to host an “Open House” where members of the Dubuque and Loras community will enjoy a preview of future programming possibilities.

The Loras College Honors Program is a flagship among college honors programs. The program is centered on a three-year community service project, and students work in collaborative groups to make a lasting impact on the world around them. Each student group has a faculty mentor. Prior Honors Program projects have included raising the funds to install solar panels on a campus house (a project that also educated campus on renewable energy); funding and implementing a campus water conservation project; and working to fund and coordinate a Multicultural Family Center’s community-based art project.