Oct. 23, 2018
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, for Angelo Taiani, a retired space engineer who earned a chemistry degree from the College in 1948 and for whom the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium is named.
Fr. Lawrence Machia, O.S.B. – himself a trained operator of the planetarium – will celebrate the Mass in the Mary, Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel in the Robert S. Carey Student Center.
Following the Mass, a planetarium show will be offered at 11 a.m. in Taiani’s honor in the planetarium, situated in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion.
Taiani passed away Aug. 16 at his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, just days before his 95th birthday. The Latrobe native is especially remembered on campus through the planetarium, which offers shows to the public and to visiting schoolchildren throughout the year.
When the first phase of the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion opened in fall 2010, the centerpiece of the glass-walled atrium was, and has remained, the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit – made possible by a gift from Taiani, who enjoyed a successful career as an aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
At the time, Taiani said that he considered the planetarium a vehicle to help encourage future space exploration as well as spark Saint Vincent students’ interest in space.
“I think this new planetarium and exhibit will bring recognition to the nation’s space program and serve Saint Vincent students as well as the western Pennsylvania area and beyond,” Taiani said. “Space exploration will dominate our nation’s future, since we can’t be satisfied with a lunar landing. The goal is to go to Mars as soon as a new launch vehicle can be developed, perhaps as early as 2020. I hope this new facility will help students get excited about the importance of interplanetary space exploration and the career opportunities available in this field.”
A graduate of Latrobe High School, Taiani served three years in the Navy during World War II and later retired as a U.S. Navy commander with 41 years of reserve service. He first became interested in aerospace when he was assigned to work with early guided missiles and space ordnance as a project officer for the first 10 Jupiter launches.
He returned to Saint Vincent and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from SVC in 1948. Some of his fondest memories included discussing baseball with chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Nolan; his work as a student with the late Fr. Aiden Pfiester, O.S.B., in the Registrar’s Office; and Bearcat football games in the stadium, which occupied the site of the current science center. He also did graduate study at George Washington University.
Taiani worked on numerous projects at NASA as a general space engineer, in test support at Cape Canaveral and later the Kennedy Space Center on the Juno project. He also worked in support of the Space Shuttle program. He retired in 1984 after a 34-year career with the space agency, moving to Cocoa Beach, where he enjoyed volunteering to give tours of NASA facilities to journalists. He knew many of the astronauts, from Buzz Aldrin to Alan Poindexter, and was an avid collector of photographs of the astronauts and launchings, many of which he gave to Saint Vincent for display in the planetarium.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made in his name to the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium, Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650. A full obituary may be found here:
Photo: Saint Vincent Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., with Angelo J. Taiani
YouTube: Saint Vincent College