New Planetarium for Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College was founded 70 years ago in Orange County, California on a portion of the deactivated Santa Ana Army Airbase. Many of the original buildings were repurposed for student and faculty housing, library, gymnasium, and concert hall.

In the early 1950’s, architect Richard Neutra redesigned the campus, leaving many of the original buildings intact and adding modernist structures including lecture halls and a theater. Also built during this time was a 35 seat planetarium.

In the 1970s, many of the original Army buildings were replaced by architect William Blurock.

As part of a 2015 plan to update the campus, a new $20 million planetarium is in the process of being built. The project broke ground in 2016, and the estimated opening is for fall semester, 2018. Not only will the new planetarium serve Orange Coast College, but it will also serve grades k-12 and the surrounding community at large.

The new planetarium will have 129 seats, as opposed to the 35 seats that the old planetarium housed.

Retired professor Mary McChesney has contributed $1 million to help fund a Foucault pendulum for the new planetarium – the only one of it’s kind in Orange County. A Foucault pendulum is a device that demonstrates the rotation of the Earth.

The donation was made in honor of Mary McChesney’s late partner, Adalyn Bonin, who had also been a retired professor from Orange Coast College. Both professors retired in 1983, McChesney from teaching English and Spanish, and Bonin from teaching German.

Mary McChesney had been an ongoing contributor to the Orange Coast College Foundation. She also was a regular contributor to scholarships.

Doug Bennet, director of the Orange Coast College Foundation said, “Technology has changed so much for planetariums that we really needed to build something new.This is something special for OCC.”

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