At age 24, when other young adults were trying to find their way in this world, Clyde W. Tombaugh was discovering a new one. Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and went on to become a distinguished astronomer, is honored with a stained-glass window at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He and his wife, Patsy, helped found the congregation in 1955, and he was an active member of the church until his death in 1997.
Created by Arthur J. Tatkoski and dedicated in 2001, the five-paneled window is eight feet tall and eighteen feet wide and is located on the east side of the church, where it catches the morning light. Its theme is the universe and our solar system, interspersed with depictions of Tombaugh’s childhood in Kansas, his passion for teaching, and his work with rockets, telescopes, NASA, and the White Sands missile base. A banner stretching across the panels quotes from the church affirmation: “That all souls shall grow into harmony with creation.”
Friends and colleagues of the Tombaughs raised funds to commission the window as a gift to the 175-member congregation. The window is the focal point of the church’s art gallery and draws visitors interested in Tombaugh’s work, the Rev. Nancy Anderson said.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Las Cruces church and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pluto discovery.