(Associate Professor – Troy University)
AAS: Are you a seasoned amateur astronomer or just getting into the hobby?
RM: I had been tinkering less than a year when I joined AAS in January of 2013, but have been very interested in astronomy since childhood. I just could not afford my own telescope until 2012, when we became empty nesters. I am a quick study though, and think I have learned a lot over since then. In late 2013, East Alabama Living magazine ran a 2-page spread with a bunch of my astrophotos, which was cool. Some of my colleagues have purchased a few as framed works of art, and I now sell them to anyone that wants them. I have online photo albums at http://www.trustc3.com/astro, and send out any new photos I take via a mailing list (email me to be added).
AAS: What was your first exposure that attracted you to astronomy?
RM: My first memory of watching television was in the summer of ’69, when the Apollo 11 mission splashed down. My mother made us kids watch it. I grew up during the space race and was present at the launch of the Apollo/Soyuz mission in ’75, which fascinated me. I can’t say what one exposure attracted me to astronomy, but if I had to pick anything it would probably just growing up in the environment I grew up in. I was co-owner of a Celestron C8 back in 83/84, but traded my share of the scope for something or other and have regretted it ever since. I’ve always enjoyed binoculars and looking for the bright stuff, like clusters, galaxies, bright nebulae, etc.
AAS: Tell us a little about your family members: spouse? Kids? Siblings? Significant other?
RM: I’m married to a wonderful lady (Vicki) and we have six kids (5 boys, 1 girl – aged 36, 32, 28, 25, 25, 23). Three are married, one will soon be married, and the other two are working on it. We have three granddaughters (11, 2, and another not yet 1) and two grandsons (1 year old, and one not quite that old). My dad passed away in 97, and my mom and two siblings live not far away. My paternal grandmother is 92 and still lives near my aunt in Birmingham.
AAS: Can you tell us about your formal education?
RM: I have an AS in Avionics Systems Technology from the Air Force, a BS in Resources Management from Troy University, an MBA (Research concentration) from Troy University, a MS in Human Resource Management from Troy University, and a Ph.D. in Management (of Information, Technology, and Innovation) from Auburn University. I also have a bunch of formal military training in avionics, radar systems, electronics, etc.
AAS: Do you have any pets? What kind? How many?
RM: Not at the moment, but my wife is really into horses. When she goes on trail rides and camps, I go along with my telescope (she jokingly called her last horse her “other man” and I call my telescope my “mistress”). Some of the places they go are really nice for viewing, and I can usually set my telescope up close enough to the campsite to sit by the fire while it does its thing (taking pictures), but far enough away for the light and smoke from the fire not to be a problem.
AAS: Where do you work? If you’re retired, what was your occupation?
RM: I’m on the faculty of the Sorrell College of Business at Troy University, and teach corporate strategy (and sometimes Information Systems, Statistics, HR, or whatever else they need me to). I am also the Director of Communications for the College of Business, which gives me a much more flexible schedule. Prior to this, I worked in the automotive industry for about a decade and was a production superintendent, after spending a decade in the Air Force as an AWACS radar technician.
AAS: Besides astronomy, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
RM: I own a small computer consulting company that does PC work for those that can’t do their own, especially widows, the disabled, the elderly, and a number of local charities. I also enjoy photography, but am just learning. I also enjoy writing, and have written a few books. One of the, “The My Dearest Letters” is still for sale in Google Books, and the other two through Amazon.com.
AAS: What was your first or favorite car?
RM: My first was a 75 Vega wagon, which got into an argument with a cinderblock that was half buried on a dirt road. The car lost and I pushed it home just to sell it a few days later. My favorite car was a bright yellow and very cool 2002 Monte Carlo. That was a chick and radar magnet, which I gave to my wife right after we got married. We ended up trading it in on her Durango, which I borrow to haul my telescope around in, but I drive a very quick Cobalt Sport Coupe.
AAS: What was your first or most interesting job?
RM: My first paying job was pulling up tree roots for an Army Corps of Engineers contractor that cut dirt roads into engineering projects around the river (swampy, hot, and tons of mosquitoes and snakes). I did not last long at that. I did work at the Prattville Airport when I was 15, but was paid in flight time with a plane and an instructor pilot rather than money. After about 10 flight hours, they figured out that they were getting the short end of the stick and let me go. I flew some in the Air Force, but spent most of my 10 years in the military working maintenance on the AWACS airborne radar platform. That was probably the most interesting, and certainly the most challenging. I lived on Okinawa for 4 years and traveled throughout the Pacific region while there. When I returned, I immediately left for the Middle East (Desert Storm #1), then spent some time on a drug interdiction mission in Puerto Rico (operation Agate Path). That was very interesting, and fun, but was more than a little hard on the family while I was gone.