Alumni: Ronald C. Stone, 1978
June 9, 1946 - September 10, 2005
Ron's interest in astronomy began when he was given a toy planetarium projector while still in grade school, and later a small telescope. In high school, he also built his own telescope, grinding the 6-inch mirror by hand.
He completed grade school and high school in Downer's Grove and did his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in astronomy and physics and graduating cum laude in 1968. The following year, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years, including a stint in Vietnam. Although his primary assignment was auditing, he was also involved in the defense of the Long Binh base in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged from the service in 1971 and enrolled that fall at the University of Chicago.
While a graduate student working with Bill van Altena, Ron developed his life long interest in the field of astrometry. Van Altena recalls him as "a quiet and cheerful student who wanted to learn, and [who] worked hard to understand the intricacies of astrometry... deriving the most precise proper motions from the 40-inch [Yerkes] refractor plates." Working at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, he completed a thesis entitled, "Mean Secular Parallax at Low Galactic Latitude." While living in Wisconsin, Ron also became engaged to Ellen Mickel, and the two were married at his parents' home in Downer's Grove.
After earning his Ph.D. in 1978 from Chicago, Ron held a number of research and postdoctoral positions. These included a few months at the Venezuelan National Observatory in Merida, where he helped to set up an astrometric program. This work was unfortunately cut short because of difficulties obtaining the requisite work visa. He also had a two year postdoc at Northwestern University, where he did spectroscopy of massive stars and studied various open clusters.