Personal Giving Stories

Giving Back to the University That Gave Him So Much

Schweighauser with a statue he is donating to UIS titled “Life” depicting the earth with plants stretching toward the warmth of the sun. Image courtesy of The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

If you have ever been to a Star Party at the University of Illinois Springfield, you have Charlie Schweighauser to thank.

Since 1977, Springfield-area residents have had the opportunity to get a close-up look at the heavens through telescopes atop Brookens Library—thanks to Schweighauser’s dedication and determination to make UIS home to the finest teaching and research equipment for astronomy in Illinois.

That zest has inspired him to continue to enhance the astronomy program with estate gifts designated to the Schweighauser Astronomy Fund. He also plans to donate two sculptures he commissioned for his Pleasant Plains home by famed sculptor Saunders Schultz, a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Schweighauser began teaching at the University part-time in 1973, moving to a full-time appointment in 1974 where he helped develop the environmental sciences program. With an astronomy background, it wasn’t long before he was asked to teach a course in that too. He eventually designed 11 for astronomy alone.

“I audited some of his courses,” said his wife Barbara, herself a former UIS employee. “He’s a good teacher.”

He helped get the observatory atop the library built for public use and establish two observatories in the country for research purposes. He also helped develop the first telescope in the world for people with disabilities; that, too, sits atop the library.

Schweighauser retired in 2002 but kept teaching until 2009.

“I’ve seen it almost since the beginning,” he said of UIS. “I saw it evolve and change, and it offered me incredible opportunities for teaching and research. I wanted to give back to the University.”


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