Larry Triplett, left, and Charlotte Triplett, right, flank their tour guide, graduate student Jordan West, on a visit to the under-construction planetarium earlier this year. Charlotte Triplett says her husband, now deceased, "had a lifelong love" for the University. (Sacramento State/Tess Dyer)

It’s not just about the seat. It’s about the legacy.

For a $1,000 donation toward its spectacular new planetarium, Sacramento State will permanently affix the donor's name on the back of one of the building’s 120 seats.

The University’s “A Seat Under the Stars” campaign is an effort to raise private funds to support the building’s operations while offering community members a chance to put their imprint on the most visible amenity of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, scheduled to open on campus this fall.

“This is an opportunity for people to make a difference in a relatively affordable way, and get something great in return,” said planetarium coordinator and Sac State physics faculty member Kyle Watters. “The donor’s name will be on that seat forever.”

Sac State, in an effort to raise $20 million for the Science Complex, also is offering other naming opportunities, including laboratories, teaching spaces, the plaza and even the planetarium itself, which will take a $5 million gift.

The Science Complex will be the only facility of its kind in the region, featuring both a planetarium and an observatory with a retractable roof. It will serve Sac State’s students and faculty as well as the community at large, welcoming school children and hosting stargazing shows and film presentations on topics from astronomy to history.

“This is a great example of Sac State serving as an anchor institution in our community,” said Jennifer Navarro, director of development for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “We envision that we will be serving 15,000 people a year” for studies, field trips and shows, Navarro said.

The five-story Science Complex is named for Tschannen, the Swiss immigrant who made the largest single gift in Sac State history when he donated $9 million to the University. He made his fortune in real estate and is passionate about giving back to the country that gave him so many opportunities, Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen has said.

Construction is expected to be completed this summer, and the building will be open for classes in the fall, Navarro said. A grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Watters said the planetarium, in particular, will be a beacon for attracting young people to careers in the sciences. Interest in astronomy and exposure to science often translate into lifelong skills in a wide variety of fields, he said.

“I expect the planetarium to be an amazing classroom for our students, and I have a feeling that those classes are going to be very popular,” he said. “And it will be a great destination for school groups. Teachers already are champing at the bit to bring their students.”

Public shows will probe outer space, delving into the science of individual planets as well as the overall solar system. State-of-the-art projector and video-processing technology “will allow us to fly the audience from one planet to another,” Watters said.

But astronomy will be just one of the sciences highlighted at the planetarium.

“Obviously we will use it a lot to go to space, but we can take people all kinds of other places as well,” including on historical and geological expeditions, he said.

Seat names at the planetarium will remain for the lifetime of the chairs, Navarro said.

For Charlotte “C. Ray” Triplett and her late husband, Larry, contributing to the campaign was a point of pride. One of the two seats they purchased will carry a plaque with the family’s name. The second one will be engraved with the name of the couple’s late son, Daniel Dow Jones.

Larry Triplett was a Sac State graduate who “had a lifelong love” for the University and “took me along for the ride,” Charlotte Triplett said.

The couple attended Sac State football and baseball games and other campus events together. “We just really enjoyed the people at Sac State,” she said. Upon retirement, they established two scholarships at the University.

Attending planetarium shows on the East Coast has been a favorite activity for the Tripletts for many years, Charlotte said.

“When we found out that Sac State was building a planetarium, we got so excited,” she said. “Now it’s almost here, and I can’t wait to take my grandchildren.”

Triplett said she hopes the planetarium will spur interest in space and science among both youngsters and adults throughout the region and beyond.

“It’s a great resource for everyone,” she said. “We all need to learn about science and the earth and the stars. We need to be better stewards of our planet, and the Science Complex will be a great tool for that.” – Cynthia Hubert


For more information about naming opportunities, contact Navarro at or (916) 278-6288. Also, follow the planetarium’s plans on Twitter or on Facebook.