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Marcia Dixon, at 7, peering through a telescope at the Griffith Observatory

There must be thousands of people throughout Southern California - make that the U.S. and beyond - who have a photo like this:


"It's an old black and white picture of myself at the age of 7 looking through one of the Griffith Observatory telescopes," says retired teacher Marcia Dixon. "I always liked the place and since I grew up in Los Feliz I visited often."


Dixon has fond memories of many Hall of Science exhibits. She says she was so fascinated by the Foucault pendulum that she had to be dragged away from it while touring with others.


Dixon with her class on a field trip to the Observatory in 1972

"I loved the seismograph, and jumping up and down to 'make' an earthquake. I loved standing on the lunar scales. I remember looking through the telescope at night and thinking, 'Some day I'll have one of my own.'"


And by the late '70s, Dixon was the owner of a dandy 8-inch telescope. Ask her if she still has it and she'll laugh but acknowledge it's "around here somewhere."


Clearly astronomy held more than a casual interest for Dixon. But she credits the Observatory with inspiring her to major in physics in college and then become a science teacher. She made it a point to lead her high school and college students through the Observatory as often as practical.


"It always gave them a new appreciation for what we were learning in class," she says. "I tied in our visits to the astronomy units, lessons on Kepler's laws of planetary motion, on Newton and gravity."


As a true Observatory fan, Dixon subscribed to Griffith's Observer newsletter, where she read about FOTO.


"I had been raising kids and working full time and I never really had much time to get involved at the Observatory. Right after I retired I realized, I can do this!"


Dixon on a FOTO hard hat tour at the Observatory's consruction site

"It seemed like a natural step," she says, "to become more personally involved in something that had been so meaningful to me throughout my life."


Her reasons were practical as well as personal.


"First, it's great advertising for the larger program, because more and more people are becoming aware of what's going on through their involvement with FOTO," she says. "But I support FOTO financially because of the critical role the Observatory plays for the community, and I want my money to make an impact."


FOTO members recently took part in a hard-hat tour of the ongoing renovation. Fans were not disappointed, Dixon says.


"I was incredibly impressed. I'm so glad we are not losing the classic lines of the original building, just the old hot dog shack! When you stand on that balcony overlooking the stars, it's awe-inspiring. The universe is so vast, so beautiful, and here up on top of our hill we can begin to grasp that."

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