Planetarium manager at U-M’s Museum of Natural History retires after 32 years

Matt Linke operates UMMNH's planetarium. (University of Michigan Museum of Natural History)

ANN ARBOR – For more than three decades, Matt Linke has been at the helm of planetarium at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History, teaching generations about the solar system.

Linke is entering his final weeks before retirement and on June 30, he will use his laser pointer for the last time.

He first became interested in astronomy during the race for the moon in the 1960s. Soon after the moon landing, he began to volunteer as a teenager at the Besser Museum Planetarium in Alpena, Michigan, setting him up for a long career under a simulated night sky.

After he graduated college, Linke worked as Besser’s Planetarium Director before landing his current position at the University of Michigan.

Matt Linke has been U-M's planetarium director for 32 years. (University of Michigan Museum of Natural History)

According to a U-M release, his passion was doing planetarium shows for schoolchildren and he enjoyed their curiosity and excitement. If ever a child was afraid of the dark, Linke would let them hold a stuffed bear donated by his wife -- Pookie. His favorite event of the year at UMMNH was the Halloween party.

Linke said he is most proud of working with scores of U-M students over the years who operated the museum’s planetarium, many of whom he remains in touch with. Linke was responsible for training many of Michigan’s current planetarium directors.

During his tenure, he oversaw many changes to the planetarium, including when it went digital in 2007 and the installation of the brand-new Planetarium & Dome Theater in UMMNH’s new building in 2019.

“Upon his retirement, Matt will change his focus from the celestial to the terrestrial as he nurtures his garden and creates artwork, furniture, and decorations in his workshop,” reads a U-M release.

“He will continue to serve as a Tecumseh District Library trustee, enjoy his cats, and spend more time with his wife Lori. But wherever he is, Matt will always be watching the night sky.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.