Rene Van Caneghem
Rene Van Caneghem, Founder, President, 1958
Astronomer of the Year Award, 2004
Rene Van Caneghem was the first elected President of DAS. He was one of six founders of DAS and is the only founder who is presently active in the organization.
He was Secretary in 1956, 1957. He is an enthusiastic Archivist of DAS records, and has been its Historian since starting to compile the DAS Chronology of the first 25 years.
Born in Paris, August 20, 1920, Rene emigrated to Philadelphia at age five with his French-born parents; his paternal grandparents were from Belgium. Drafted in 1942, Rene served three years in the U.S.Army Air Force as an airplane mechanic working on B-17 bombers. After WWII, Rene used the G.I. Bill of Rights to enter the University of Pennsylvania where he earned the B.S.M.E. in mechanical engineering. He joined Du Pont Co. in 1952 as a design engineer, Instrumentation Design Division, Engineering Department, Louviers Building, Newark, Delaware. Inspired to challenge himself, he earned graduate degrees at the University of Delaware: M.S.M.E, mechanical engineering (1959) and M.Ed., education (1961). He worked for 25 years at the U. S. government’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, Maryland, retiring as a supervisory engineer in1988. “I worked in the Armor Branch as specification expert for the ballistic testing of armor plate. I was saving Army tanks and personnel carriers as well as lives!”
Astronomy became an early interest when Rene used his father’s binoculars to look at the stars. He has two daughters, Gail Louise and Lane Rene, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Gail was one of the first DAS Junior Club members. Rene and his wife, Geraldine, live in Maryland near Newark, Delaware.
Major accomplishments as president: 1) decision to build a DAS observatory at Mt. Cuba; 2) approval of the first Constitution and By-Laws; 3) affiliation with RP&S; 4) assisting MERAL to host its convention in Wilmington in 1959; and 4) encouraging the interest of Dr. Armand Spitz, an astronomy entrepreneur, in the fledgling DAS. Other accomplishments: DAS Archivist and Historian.