September 21, 2020

“Labour of Love” astronomical telescope finds a home at the UCCI

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It was ten years ago that retired surgeon and Rotarian William (‘Bill’) Hrudey began work in his garage on a lifetime dream, building a 12” diameter reflecting astronomical telescope. “It’s been a labour of love,” he said.

After, around three years of painstaking work, the completed telescope stood in his garage in West Bay.

That was when disaster struck. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan flooded his home with several feet of seawater, covering the telescope. “It was destroyed. I was able to salvage the telescope tube,” he said.

Undaunted, Mr. Hrudey began the project all over again, virtually from scratch. He estimates he spent around CI$30,000 on the parts.

When the new telescope was finally completed, Mr. Hrudey started looking for a home for it. His aim has always been to share his passion for astronomy with others, especially young people.

“As an early teen, I belonged to a group of peers all of whom had a major interest in science and astronomy in particular. We were fortunate in having the support and encouragement of several University of Alberta professors as well as use of the university’s Observatory,” he recalled.

About a year and a half ago, after making extensive enquiries within the local community, which had drawn a blank, Mr. Hrudey was on the verge of offering the telescope to Jamaica. That was when fellow Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman stepped in to help, both by contacting Mr. Roy Bodden, President of the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) who immediately showed an interest in the telescope, and also by beginning fundraising for the next phase: a purpose-built observatory on the
UCCI campus.

“We committed CI$20,000 in funds last year and a further CI$20,000 to CI$30,000 this year,” said Sebastien Guilbard, President Elect of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman.

Soon, two other sponsors were brought in to help, The Dart Group and Greenlight Re, a reinsurance company, both of whom have contributed signicantly to making Mr. Hudrey’s dream finally come true.  It is thought that the new observatory and all the equipment will cost around CI$120,000 altogether.

The groundbreaking for the new observatory housing the telescope recently took place at the UCCI campus – which  will be the telescope’s permanent home.

Apart from use by students – there will be a new course in astrophysics on offer at the college – the telescope will be open to the public.

It is also hoped that the new telescope will be the focus of astronomy conferences, attracting delegates from overseas, according to remarks offered by Premier Hon. McKeeva Bush during the groundbreaking ceremony.

UCCI President Roy Bodden said: “I am excited about this project because when I came here I noticed there was a shortcoming. I wanted to introduce science and engineering because I believe that the challenges of the 21st Century are going to be challenges which are solved by science and engineering.”

Mr. Vaughn Carter, Deputy Chief Officer of the Ministry of Education said “This is going to provide inspiration, not just for astronomers in particular or scientists in general, but for students of any discipline who are seeking to broaden their education at the University College of
the Cayman Islands.”

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