Keystone Program Welcomes Astronomer Derrick Pitts

Angelitta Anderson

March 1, 2013

Dr. Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, speaks at the Keystone Honors Academy Annual Winter Banquet

Dr. Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, speaks at the Keystone Honors Academy Annual Winter Banquet

On February 28, 2013, the Keystone Honors Academy (KHA) hosted its annual Winter Banquet where a number of students were recognized for their dedication to academics, research and exploration.  

The keynote speaker was Dr. Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Dr. Pitts is a native Philadelphian who graduated from Germantown Academy and received his Bachelor of Science degree in geology from St. Lawrence University.  He has been named one of the 50 most important African-Americans in research science. 
Dr. Pitts has held numerous positions in both academic and community organizations and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Mayor’s Liberty Bell, the David Rittenhouse Award, and the G. W. Carver Medal. Additionally, Dr. Pitts is a NASA solar system ambassador. He has made numerous television appearances, including shows such as The Colbert Report, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and he regularly appears on programs such as CNN International and MSNBC. He also co-hosts a weekly radio discussion program called Skytalk on WHYY-FM. Dr. Pitts is credited with the credo “Eat. Breathe. Do Science. Sleep later!”
Dr. Tara Kent, Dean of the KHA, acknowledged many high-achieving students before Pitts took to the podium, including Raven Smith Parris.  She was selected for a 2013 summer research internship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where she will be involved in cancer research. Also recognized was recent alumnus, Ezekiel Crenshaw, a current doctoral candidate at Drexel University. He is a recipient of The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, and is involved in a research project at the Alliance High School in Kikuyu, Kenya. The project focuses on improving indoor air quality by building Bio walls. His project combines science and engineering research, while teaching and working with students and educators.  His  work will result in positive environmental and health outcomes. 
Other students receiving recognition included
- Angelitta Anderson who has been accepted to present her paper titled, “Research Essay of the Harlem Renaissance” at the National Council for Black Studies Conference. The Keystone Honors Academy is sponsoring her attendance. She received guidance and support in preparing her paper from Dr. Virgilette Gaffin. 
- Patricia Bell, who presented her research at The Humanities and Technology Association Conference and at the Pennsylvania Sociological Society conference. 
- Julianne Lewis, whose research paper was accepted into the American Psychological Association’s national conference. Her paper explores motivation for professional success and the impact on subjective well-being.
"There is tremendous value to engaging in the research process," Dr. Kent told the crowd in Carnegie Hall, "because it is an essential component to human progress.  As we engage in research," she explained, "we're seeking out new possibilities, and playing a role in advancing human knowledge.  By doing science and research we're not only expanding our knowledge about what is, but research also reveals to us the infinite potentiality of what else may be."
Dr. Kent then presented certificates to students who received a perfect 4.0 grade point average,including Kenneth Allen, Angelitta Anderson, Craig Bond, Nichele Bryant, Dominique Daniels, Ebony Dingle, Ayewoh Ebosele, and Jasmine Edwards, Renee Harris, Cristina Jordon, Travoyna Kenly, Tiana Kirby, Destiny McFarlane, Fanta Murray, Mia Parker, Bell Patricia, Alexis Peterson, Terrence Reynolds and Ryan Robert, Darius Warren, Blaze Wasserleben and Kamaria Rawlings.
In addition, Chris Stewart and Emmanuel Tyler were applauded for receiving scholarships to study abroad with the PASSHE Summer Honors Program.
By the evening’s end, Dr. Pitts had left the entire room excited about exploring the world around them. He referred to an app on his phone that detects galaxies. I was so enthused I downloaded a Sky Map to my phone so that I could learn the names of the stars, planets, and constellations. Dr. Pitts emphasized the importance of loving ones work. He said; “If you love your work, you will never work a day in your life; instead of going to work, you will go to play." He also extended an invitation to view celestial objects in the urban night skies at The Franklin Institute’s observatory on the second Thursday of each month. He answered questions ranging from the field of astronomy, to the pathways to success. The night was filled with good food, lots of inspiration, loads of laughter and fun. It was truly an unforgettable, inspiring evening.