Honored Retiree Reflects on his 40+ Years at SBVC

When it came time to choose a career path, Chris Clarke decided to reach for the stars. 
 
In January 1978, Clarke, a Rialto native, enrolled in an astronomy class at San Bernardino Valley College. The George F. Beattie Planetarium had just opened at SBVC, and "I immediately fell in love with it," Clarke says. He became a student volunteer, and even after he left SBVC to finish his bachelor's degree in art at the University of California Riverside, he remained connected to the Planetarium, designing and painting a floor mural for the lobby's pendulum pit. 
 
By 1980, Clarke was presenting shows to visiting school groups, giving astronomy lab demonstrations, and helping produce and put on Friday night public astronomy programs. He did this part-time, while going to school and working other jobs, until 1992, when he was hired full-time to essentially run the Planetarium and Observatory. 
 
"I have been an amateur astronomer since I was a child and once I became part of this wonderful facility at age 18, it truly became a life-long passion," Clarke says. "I believe that it was something that I was born to do and it has undoubtedly been the most important thing in my life." 
 
The Planetarium and Observatory offer an "enlightening and entertaining way" to explore the cosmos, Clarke says. Clarke also founded and curates a museum, which highlights the history of SBVC and the Observatory, plus antique scientific instruments. 
 
"I am continually adding new display items and collect and save any and all donations of older college material for posterity," Clarke says. 
 
Clarke retired in 2017, but stayed around as a volunteer to keep the Planetarium program running until a full-time replacement could come on board. His dedication earned him the Honored Retiree Award during this spring's Spotlighting Our Success Awards. 
 
"I was very pleased and proud to be recognized for my continued efforts with the Planetarium facility and its astronomy outreach program after I retired," he says. 
"My favorite thing about working here all these years is just sharing the wonders of the universe with any and all who are interested, especially children." 
  
Valley College is a special place for Clarke and his family. His father, brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousin all attended SBVC, receiving their associate's degrees or transferring as juniors, and his mother and aunt took a few evening classes. His brother and cousin also taught at SBVC part-time, while his sister worked as a secretary. 
 
"Valley has not only been an integral part of my life, but also with the rest of my immediate family," Clarke says. "For myself, after being on this campus for 42 years now, it has truly been home to me."