Editor's note: Ricki S tein turns over the QCSD space today to Dr. Robert Leight, former S chool Board member who is still very active with school district activities.It is a long way from Richlandtown to the far reaches of outer space, but a 1998 graduate of Quakertown Community High School has made the journey. During the decade long sojourn from QCHS to a doctorate in Astronomy at The University of Arizona, Jennifer Donley has achieved a number of honors that reflect back to her studies in science in our high school. Her success is a testimony to the quality of instruction provided in the Quakertown Community School District.
It is a stretch to claim that Dr. Donley has reached outer space, but her dissertation at The University of Arizona analyzed the contribution of a space telescope to the study of distant phenomena. In her advanced studies, she has traveled over much of the earth, including service as a Fulbright
Scholar at the Australia Telescope National Facility, where she studied astronomy with a radio telescope. During her doctoral studies, she attended conferences or studied the telescopes with scholars in Portugal, Germany, Chile, England, and Hawaii.
But all journeys have a beginning, and Jennifer's academic studies began in Kindergarten in the Quakertown Community School District. She went to Neidig Elementary School and Strayer Middle School. She graduated as the top student of the class of 1998, then matriculated at Penn State. Jennifer graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in May 2002 with "Honors and Highest Distinction in Astronomy and Astrophysics." Following her year as a Fulbright Scholar, she was enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Arizona, where she completed her Master of Science degree in Astronomy. She successfully defended her dissertation for the Ph. D. just before Christmas and was able to celebrate with her family and attend Christmas Eve services at her home church, St. John's Lutheran in Quakertown.
Dr. Donley's dissertation acknowledged the influence of her high school teacher who she said first stimulated her interest in Astronomy, Mitch Anderson. She has good memories of her teachers at QCHS, especially her science teachers, such as Mr. Blake, Mrs. Heley, Mr. Ruhl and Mr. Jarrett. But she also remembers other teachers who helped to shape her attitudes and intellect such as Mrs. Quinque in Art, Mrs. Saveri and Ms. Houston in English, and her other teachers at Neidig, Strayer and the high school.
While in high school, Jennifer participated in field hockey and the marching band. She recalled her hockey coach, Ms. Kalas, and the band director at the time, Mr. Shughart.
Jennifer's former high school teachers remembered her as well. Several of her teachers at QCHS have remarkably similar memories of her work as a high school student.
Mitch Anderson was Jennifer's teacher of Earth-Space Science and Astronomy. He recalled particularly the depth of understanding that she displayed in her responses to essay questions. "It was clear that she understood everything that I discussed. One window to a student's mind is through her response to essay questions. Jennifer was quiet and shy, but it was clear from the way that she answered questions that she absorbed and understood everything."
Chemistry teacher Skip Blake had similar memories of Jennifer's work in two classes, Chemistry II and Honors Chemistry. She was the top student in each class. He also remembers that she was a quiet student with an outstanding work ethic and drive to perfection. "Although she majored in Astronomy in college, she would have been successful in any of the sciences," he said.
Jennifer's excellence was apparent in other academic areas beside science. Sue Quinque was one of Jennifer's art teachers.
She recalled Jennifer as a "real delight," and a "wonderful student. She was a very dedicated, very smart young lady who always strived for perfection. Her success as a scholar is a real tribute to Quakertown High School."
Dr. Donley's awards since she left Quakertown are impressive. As mentioned above she was a Fulbright Scholar immediately after her undergraduate work at Penn State. At Penn State she received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the John W. Oswald Award, and the Sylvia Stein Memorial Space Grant Scholarship. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow from 2003-2006, and received the Department of Astronomy Outstanding Service Award in 2008.
For the remainder of this year she will return to The University of Arizona, then hopes to continue her research as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Astronomy at a similar research university. Eventually Dr. Donley would like to become a faculty member at a university.
Quakertown Community High School is one of the few high schools with a planetarium, which was constructed in the era of Sputnik during the 1960s. Dr. Donley feels that the study of Astronomy is important as it helps us to understand fundamental questions, such as the origin of the universe. The technology developed for Astronomy has had applications in other fields, such as computer technologies.
Other QCHS graduates are making inroads in successful careers. We'll learn about more of them in the future. If you know of any, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ricki Stein is the community relations coordinator with QCS D. S end comments to email@example.com. "From the Inside Out" is a column dedicated to the views of the Quakertown Community School District.