For more than three decades, Matt Linke has been reaching for the stars as the Planetarium Manager at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH). He laid down his laser pointer for the last time on June 30, 2021.
Matt’s interest in astronomy was inspired by the race for the moon in the 1960s. Not long after the moon landing, he became a teen volunteer at the Besser Museum Planetarium in Alpena, Michigan, and his career was set. After college, Matt worked as the Planetarium Director at Besser before landing the job at the University of Michigan.
Matt especially enjoyed doing planetarium shows for schoolchildren. He loved their excitement and curiosity. And if a child was scared of the dark, Matt would let them hold Pookie—a stuffed bear donated by his wife, Lori Davis. His favorite event at UMMNH was the annual Halloween party. He enjoyed decorating the museum and the planetarium, and watching all the children in their costumes.
Matt is most proud of working with the more than 100 U-M students who operated the museum’s planetarium over the years. He maintains contact with many of them, a group fondly known as the “Planet of the Ops.” Many of the planetarium directors in Michigan today were trained by Matt.
Matt led the update to the planetarium when it went digital in 2007, and led the design and installation of the new Planetarium & Dome Theater when the museum moved to its new building in 2019. Throughout the building process, Matt would lay on the unfinished floor to take photos of the construction of the new dome, ultimately creating a time-lapse video that he could show on the new fulldome screen.
While not formally trained in paleontology, Matt became the museum’s resident fossil expert, teaching student docents about fossilization, and identifying fossils visitors would bring in.
Upon his retirement, Matt will change his focus from the celestial to the terrestrial as he nurtures his garden and creates artwork, furniture, and decorations in his workshop. He will continue to serve as a Tecumseh District Library trustee, enjoy his cats, and spend more time with his wife Lori. But wherever he is, Matt will always be watching the night sky.