in Futurist, Wolfpack, X-Geek

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at NCSU

Hallie and Travis with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Hallie and Travis with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

When I got word that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was going to soon be speaking at N.C. State, I was determined to finagle some tickets. It seemed to be an impossible task, since he was speaking in the tiny Hunt library auditorium and it was mainly a College of Sciences event with few tickets available to the public. Even so, through a friend with close ties to the school I found out the time that the hundred or so general-admission tickets would be distributed online.

Learning that each registrant would be allowed just one guest, I got Kelly to join in my ticket quest. When that moment arrived – the second it arrived – Kelly and I were madly refreshing our browsers, waiting for a link to register for tickets. Somehow the stars aligned and both of us managed to put our names in the hat before the ticket window closed within three minutes!

The stars aligned again this evening for the event. Today was my first day at my new job on Centennial Campus, so I had a short walk from my office building to the Hunt Library. Kelly, however, was picking up the kids from Farmville, VA, and rolled into the library perhaps 30 seconds before the audience began to file into the auditorium.

I had attended a presentation in the auditorium a week prior, so I was familiar with the layout. Rather than follow the crowd down the right aisle, I led the family down the open left aisle, parking us on the very first row in front of the speaker podium! Another lucky break, though they say that fortune favors the prepared!

Dr. Tyson didn’t disappoint. He walked right by us on his way onstage, pausing a moment to high-five both kids! He also spent some time during his talk to interact with the kids, asking Hallie how old she was and taking a cue from Travis on another point. Kelly and I vigorously protested with Dr. Tyson told the kids that we as their parents actually don’t know everything. Hey, keep that to yourself, Neil!

The talk was lengthy and insightful, though the talk went on too long for questions to be taken from the audience. That’s a shame as I had thought for days what I might ask him and didn’t get the chance. It was disappointing but perhaps I’ll get another chance.

Being on the front row was less of an advantage for us when it came time to move to the reception upstairs. We had to wait while the rest of the auditorium exited above us. By the time we reached the auditorium, Dr. Tyson was surrounded by a crowd of fans, not giving us much of a chance for the kids to say hello to him.

Soon we saw him being gently nudged towards the door. The kids’ disappointment was mounting as they asked us “is he just going to leave?” While Kelly took things out of my hand, I directed the kids towards Dr. Tyson as he walked out into the hallway. Fortunately, he recognized his Front Row Buddies and paused for a few photos, goosing the kids comically in the last one. As my friend Guus commented on Facebook commented, it is a photo they will treasure for decades.

We all had a wonderful time this evening. I’m especially happy that our science-loving kids got a chance to meet such an influential scientist like Dr. Tyson. Perhaps this encounter will prompt them to pursue careers in science, or at least making the world a better place.