Interim Santa Monica College President Thomas Donner issued the following statement last Thursday, January 5.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that Jon Hodge, SMC’s planetarium director who opened up the wonders of the universe to tens of thousands of adults and children over the past 26 years, died Wednesday. He was 57.
“Jon is remembered as a charming and — even when battling cancer — ever-cheerful man who had a highly developed ability to turn complex subjects into understandable lectures and lively presentations for people of all ages.
“In a fitting tribute to Jon, who was on medical leave since last fall with an eye on retirement, his colleagues in the Earth Science Department arranged to have an asteroid named after him late last year. Asteroid 18117 is now called ‘Jonhodge.’ The honor recognized him for his ‘enormous contribution to the dissemination of astronomical and scientific knowledge to the general public, college students and schoolchildren’ – not only for his work at SMC, but also for his lectures at UCLA and Griffith Observatory.
“His planetarium shows were conducted not only for the benefit of SMC students, but also for the general public (Jon had quite a following) and for schoolchildren of all ages. Over the years, he has talked about every subject imaginable in the universe, many with catchy titles such as ‘Apocalypse Now: The Asteroid Risk,’ ‘How Big is Space?’ and ‘This Alien Earth.’ His planetarium shows survived earthquakes and soared to new heights with the construction a few years ago of a new 50-seat facility, complete with the state-of-the-art Digistar projection system.
“Interestingly, Jon’s college degree is not even in astronomy. He started out as an astronomy major at USC, but switched to the history of medieval science.
“After graduating, he started work at the Griffith Observatory in 1971, first as a guide and then as a lecturer. He took over as SMC’s planetarium director in 1979, but continued to lecture at Griffith until it closed three years ago for major renovations. He has also worked with UCLA, organizing popular public seminars on astronomy.
“Hodge established himself in Southern California’s active astronomical scene, bringing in guest lecturers to SMC from such organizations as Griffith, Cal Tech, UCLA and the Jet Propulsion Lab. He was also a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the International Planetarium Society.
Jon was born March 30, 1948. He lived in Winetka, a community in the western San Fernando Valley. He was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma several years ago.
Hodge is survived by his wife Mary; two sons, Brendan and Timothy; a daughter, Rosamund; and two grandchildren.”
A Vigil Service will be held at 7 p.m. this evening, January 11 at Lorenzen Mortuary, 19300 Sherman Way, Reseda.
A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, January 12 at St. Mel Church, 20870 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills. Burial will be immediately after the funeral at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, 11160 Stanwood Avenue. Mission Hills.
The family has asked that no flowers be sent to the funeral. Flowers are permitted only at the vigil. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that Masses be said for the repose of the soul of Jon Hodge or donations made to Catholic Medical Mission Board, PO Box 4715, New York, New York 10164.